Fabio Fognini

613494-agnieszka-radwanskaWorld #4 Agniezska Radwanska (above), as she struggles to deal with oppressive conditions at The Apia in Sydney.

One of our ones to watch, the very talented and stylish young one hander Grigor Dimitrov, makes his 1st ever tour final over the weekend.  This week, he rolls out to Sydney where he gets bounced, 1 & 3, by Fognini, a vastly inferior player.  Maybe Dimitrov, still young, doesn’t yet have mastered the art of the quick turn around.  Not exactly likely since to break into the main draw bubble at lesser tournies like these, he’s had to go the hard scrabble qualifier route to make his bones, often playing 3 matches before his 1st round match.  This, after a prolific junior career in which he won both the Wimbledon and US Open junior titles.  Maybe though.  Also unlikely that Benoit Paire, after a strong week in India would fall so flat the next week, another 1st round  casualty, this time in Auckland.  Certainly couldn’t be the problem for John Isner, already lame this new year despite virtually no match play at all.  But only in Australia is freshness and injury such a concern, though the new year has yet to see it’s 10th day.




You must know we’re quite likely to chalk up assorted leg, back, shoulder and elbow injuries Down Under to surface issues most of the time.  I mean, is it not a little curious that Rafael Nadal, who is practicing full bore on red clay, we hear, in Barcelona, and is making bold, confident proclamations on Twitter that he is great to go, and in fact expects to have a banner 2013?  Just not in Australia, which, apparently healthy, he has decided to skip entirely. Nadal is always subject to injury from his horrible defensive style–running, endless points, infinite pounding–but there can be no denying that a 6 hour, 5 set Aussie final on Plexicushion left him staggered.  So staggered in fact that despite today claiming perfect health, he is nowhere to be found around Melbourne not 5 days before a major, the 2nd straight major he is about to miss, making for a 7th straight month without match play.


Rather quizzical to us that Nadal would then go play singles and doubles at Indian Wells, also on Plexicushion, but you’ll never hear us accuse Nadal of being bright.  Perhaps never more obvious were the negative effects of Plexicushion than in the IW semis, where Federer smoked Nadal easily, despite the sizable advantage the torturously slow, high bouncing surfaces affords a pusher like Nadal, for whom the basic total of his strategy is praying for high bounces.

But supposedly the Plex is so great on the joints, right?  And of course, it absorbs the heat so well, so much better than the previous surface, Rebound Ace (ever hear those myths about Rebound Ace melting in the sun to the point where the courts and the players’ shoe bottoms become one?  LOL.  Propaganda, thy name is Tennis Australia).  There is such a hypocritical dichotomy with Tennis Australia which is both insulting and disgusting at once. Rebound Ace was so great when it was in, despite widespread dissatisfaction with that.  Plexicushion is so great now, despite widespread dissatisfaction with this.  We can not temper our disdain for Craig Tiley, Tennis Australia’s major domo and the AO’s Director, who is greedy, moronic and an unabashed liar all at once.  This week,  Tiley has instructed tournaments to soldier on in the face of unrelenting heat.  Inhumane conditions, to be perfectly honest.


 Drysdale, Hewitt, Pat Cash, Peter McNamara, Liz Smylie and Jason Stoltenberg were among a host of tennis figures critical of Tiley and TA.  As TA’s director of player development, Tiley yesterday accused his detractors of peddling misinformation.  Drysdale, a former TA employee, was incensed.

 “His comments show a complete lack of respect for the culture of Australian tennis,” Drysdale said. (You can read the full article at the link below.)


Tiley is a guy who wants us to believe Plexicushion plays like grass, that it absorbs heat in superior fashion, and that it is not slower than Nadal between points.  Fooling the public is one thing.  Fooling the players is another, as we see from a variety of Aussie players above.  Yet Tiley seems to challenge every negative player reaction.  Let us ask who’d be in a position to know better the true tendencies of the court?  Tiley, who is obviously over invested, or Lleyton Hewitt, who every summer has the same exact grade of Plexicushion poured in his own backyard, to spec, as the ones freshly laid at Melbourne Park?

On Monday, Wimbledon runner up Aggie Radwanska, whose game is dependent on conditioning, calls for the tournament director to ask for a suspension in play, as the temperature on court hits 50 degrees Centigrade, or 122 degrees.  After the match, Radwanska describes the conditions as essentially barbaric for all involved, from players to spectators to concessioneers.  How does Tiley spin that, pardon pun?  Below is a Youtube link to Radwanska’s press conference yesterday, in which she said, among other things, that Sydney is less about tennis and more about pure survival:


Radwanska was not alone.  Jelena Jankovic, extremely dependent on slow courts, basically marveled at the awful conditions.  When Na Li, a major champion and very well respected player, 1st ever and only Chinese player to win a singles major, who also displayed tremendous courage and set an awesome precedent by defying the Chinese Tennis Federation’s bid to dictate the terms of her career and her purse (quite a coup by her to bring in Henin mastermind Carlos Rodriguez too, as she always seems to be making solid moves), speaks about poor conditions, she does so for the sport at large.  As does Roger Federer, on record already saying the courts are too slow, who is not playing Kooyong as we expected.  Federer, to conserve energy, is playing no matches this year on Australian Plexicushion outside of Melbourne Park, and knowing Roger, that is another tacit indictment of the conditions.

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/01/08/uk-tennis-australia-warmups-idUKBRE90705120130108 (“Kuznetsova Overcomes Wozniacki in Sydney Heat”)

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/tennis/agnieszka-radwanska-downs-kimiko-date-krumm-no-worries-at-sydney-interantional/story-e6frfgao-1226549552738 (“Tennis Stars Make Heavy Weather of Searing Heat at Sydney International”)

It is obvious that the players are not enjoying the Australian experience–even native Australians–with the season coming right at the heart of the unbearable Australian summer.

So you ask perhaps why we harp on Australia’s lamentable geography?  For one, we don’t think it’s realistic that Australia keeps their status as a major tennis nation.  They do little to justify that status on the court, the travel to and from is murder, it is by no means an economic powerhouse as a nation, they have dulled and diluted theirs and the world’s talent pool by their choice of surface, and those aspects of their geography they can control, like picking a surface that mitigates the extreme heat, they have miserably failed at.  Why?  Because they lusted after deals with surface manufacturers and put the tennis second, which is an unconscionable sin in our eyes.

We apologize to the good fans of Australia, but as always, we provide our opinions in keeping with what we believe to be the truth.

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

Canadian wunderkind Milos Raonic (above).

When play commences on the lawns next week, tennis fans will be treated to some very good matchups.  With the Wimbledon draws announced today, we figured we’d let you know what to look out for in the first couple of rounds.  Ladies first:


Ladies Singles–1st Round


(15) Jelena Jankovic vs. Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez

Akgul Amanmuradova vs. (23) Venus Williams

Alison Riske (USA) vs. (2) Vera Zvonareva

(6) Francesca Schiavone vs. Jelena Dokic

Christina McHale (USA) vs. Ekaterina Makarova

(18) Ana Ivanovic vs. Melanie Oudin (USA)

Coco Vandeweghe (USA) vs. Eleni Danilidou

Aravane Rezai vs. Serena Williams

Laura Robson vs. Angelique Kerber

(5) Maria Sharapova vs. Anna Chakvetadze


Mens Singles 1st Round


Ryan Sweeting (USA) vs. Pablo Andujar

Fabio Fognini vs. Milos Raonic

Donald Young (USA) vs. Alex Bogomolov Jr. (USA)

Radek Stepanek vs. Fernando Verdasco

Tobias Kamke vs. Blaz Kavcic

Sergiy Stakhovsky vs. Daniel Cox (GBR)

Ivan Ljubicic vs. Marin Cilic

Ivo Karlovic vs. Janko Tipsarevic

Alexander Dolgopolov Jr. vs. Fernando Gonzalez

John Isner vs. Nicolas Mahut

David Nalbandian vs. Julian Reister

Robin Soderling vs. Philipp Petzschner

Kei Nishikori vs. Lleyton Hewitt

Marcos Baghdatis vs. James Blake


The women’s draw features Mary Joe Fernandez’s rag tag crew of hack Fed Cuppers, in Oudin, McHale, and Vandeweghe.  Oudin should get dusted by Ivanovic, who, should she lose, should probably hang it up already.  Coco’s got a glimmer of hope against Danilidou.  McHale should get shredded by Makarova.  FYI, Vania King, who has played well, is in the main draw, as is Alison Riske, who has a very tall order in Vera Z.  Who knows?  Grass is Riske’s best surface, and maybe the Pensylvania product gets lucky.  Zvonareva looked dead during her QF at Eastbourne versus Stosur, after winning 8 of the first 12 games and virtually having the match in the bag.  Zvonareva has played a lot of tennis this year.  Could that bode well for the American who should be installed on our FC squad, especially considering America’s woeful state of affairs and relegation from the World Group?  Journeywoman American by way of Russia Varvara Lepchenko did upset 18th seed Flavia Pennetta at Roland Garros, so we’ll give her a bit of a chance here against 19th seed, Yanina Wickmayer.  Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, one of the few women with the stones to consistently attack, has a great shot to upset Jelena Jankovic.  The Spaniard is 2-1 lifetime versus the gutless, annoying Serb.  Also, it would be nice to see young Brit Laura Robson win her first round match with Kerber.  Kerber will be favored.

Not to run on about the men, but we do feel it’s high time that Ryan Sweeting, with his ranking up to 66th, notch his first ever match win on grass.  We’re very interested to see our boy, young beast Milos Raonic on the grass.  The possibility of a 3rd round match between Raonic and Nadal would make for appointment television.  As would a possible Del Potro/Nadal round of 16 affair.  Nice to see DP in the top 25 again (24).  Tommy Haas looks for his first win of the year, and we welcome him back, as well as David Nalbandian, who won 2 rounds at Halle.  We also welcome back Chilean ball crusher Fernando Gonzalez who might be a big problem for Dolgopolov, who seems to adjust poorly to specialty surfaces.  We love Stepanek, a nice net player, as an upset special in round 1.  We’d love to see James Blake do something in the spot versus Baghdatis, but Blake is even more disappointing than usual at Wimbledon.  Things look good for former boys champ Donald Young, in a very winnable 1st round match versus another American Alex Bogolomov.  We always love watching talented 1-hander Segiy Stakhovsky, who gets diminutive British hack Daniel Cox in round 1.  We hope Soderling has a good run here but it wouldn’t shock us if Philipp Petzschner, a very good grass courter and last year’s doubles champ gave him a good go.  Our favorite techno tennis player, Janko Tipsarevic has his hands full with ace machine Ivo Karlovic.  We might put a few dinari on Dr. Ivo.  It would be a good time for Marin Cilic to wake up, though we don’t have much confidence in that.

And in maybe the most celebrated first round rematch ever, we look for Giant John Isner, whose ranking has fell to near 50, to get back on track and take care for Mahut before it gets to 70-68 in the 5th.  Isner has weathered the clay season, and can not be faulted for taking Nadal to 5 hard sets at Roland Garros in round 1.  We look for him to have a great summer starting here, and carrying over to the American summer hardcourt season.




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

The Isles collectively winced today, when their great hope, Andy Murray (above), rolled his right ankle in his 3rd round matchup at Roland Garros versus German Michael Berrer.  Murray, with a seemingly plum draw into the semis where he’d possibly meet the anointed, Novak Djokovic, played very well after the injury, though gingerly.  Does a bad ankle necessarily spell doom for Murray?  We’ll say that physically at least, Murray is a lot tougher than he looks.  There isn’t anyone alive right now who’d want to face Djokovic at less than full speed, but Murray did not play compromised tennis today.  As he said to the press, he’s never had much problem with his right ankle before, but he’d wear a brace and go out and hit tennis balls tomorrow, in preparation for tricky Victor Troicki on Monday.

He also said he might not be able to go on, but you shouldn’t worry about that.  Murray likes drama.  We remember back to 2007 when Murray had a bad wrist injury.  He suffered it in Hamburg, right before the French Open, and then struggled to get back on track for the US Open.  He won his match back at the Rogers Cup against Robby Ginepri, then got dusted by Fabio Fognini, 6-2, 6-2.  He was then on to Cincinnati where Marcos Baghdatis gave the lame Murray one of the worst beatings in his life, 6-1, 6-2.

A guy like Nadal, let’s face it, they may talk about what a lion he is and all that, but he wouldn’t even try to play in Murray’s position with the wrist.  As it was, it seemed like ESPN wanted to give Nadal an on the spot ESPY for not retiring against David Ferrer down under, as he did the year before when facing Murray in the semis.  So that summer of 2007, Murray makes his way to Flushing and he won easy in round 1, and then truly gutted out a win over Jonas Bjorkman, 6-1 in the 5th.  You could see it on his face right there.  He was done.  But he came out the next round, against H.T. Lee, and I remember it well as a spectator, because it was a unique moment.  Before the warmup, he and Lee exchanged words, and Muurray told Lee that his wrist was shot and that he was very limited, but that he was going to try to gut it out.  Then he goes down 2 sets, and I’m thinking, “throw in the towel, kid.”  Instead, he takes the next set, before Lee finally beat him in 4.

You all know I don’t like Andy Murray.  No secrets there.  Like and dislike is really all relative though to what is best for the continuation of risk and reward tennis, shot making, variety, and sheer brilliance with racquet and not the feet, on the court.  Andy Murray is good for the game right now.  He has a chance to beat Djokovic, and to win a major, which we all know is historic.  I mean, a Brit hasn’t won any type of clay court tournament since the 70’s.  It’s a shame that Murray caught this break, but we think that Murray is here to play, no matter what.  We also think he’s got the clay court thing figured out better than he ever has in the past. 

A turned ankle is not the worst thing ever.  John McEnroe talked about playing with one, and he used to actually move forward into the court, and he still thought Murray was in good shape, and that it could even prompt him to do what he must to win, addressing the age old knock on Murray, which is to be more aggressive.  Kobe Bryant routinely plays on full blown sprained ankles.  When he injured his ankle badly recently in the playoffs, and was asked if he would still play, he commented that playing hurt was “basically old hat” for him.

So we aren’t going to shed any tears for the UK just yet.  As for the odds for tomorrow, not a lot of respect being shown to past champs on the women’s side:

Hantuchova:  Even

Kuznetsova:  – 130


Jankovic:  – 145

Schiavone:  + 115

We’d be the first to tell you if we thought Kuznetsova was grossly out of shape, as she appeared at Indian Wells.  She’s actually in fine form.  We like that matchup for her, and think she is in the mix for the title.  Sure, we were trashing her as recently as 2 weeks ago, but apparently, she went to Spain and got into great shape, for her, and found her clay court game.  She did look a little tired in the 2nd set of her 3rd round match, but she’s had 2 days to rest.  We’ll take her.  And we love betting against Jankovic, and rooting against her, as her awful mechanics and fundamentals are very bad for the game and for brilliant tennis.  Don’t you hate that accent too?  So annoying.  We’re hoping that Schiavone, the little one hander that could, defends her title ably tomorrow.

Bartoli:  – 190

Dulko:  + 150


Zvonareva:  – 220

Pavlyuchenkova:  + 170


We love Zvonareva in general, and hate Bartoli, in general, but who knows how these matches will go?  If we had to speculate, we’d say Vera and Dulko, who can hopefully retain the magic for one more match.

As for the men, there are some huge favorites:

Federer:  – 1100

Wawrinka:  + 650


Djokovic:  – 2000

Gasquet:  + 1000


Ferrer:  – 400

Monfils:  + 300


Fabio Fognini:  + 160

Albert Montanes:  – 200

Federer and Djokovic are heavies for a reason, but who wants to lay out a thousand or a couple thousand to get back a hundred?  Roger did put on a clinic against Stan in Melbourne, and has appeared in fine form, but is Federer now the kind of guy who can come out flat in a major against a guy he should beat, like he did against Falla at Wimbledon?  We think he’s better here in this spot with Annacone.  But keep in mind, Stan’s only win versus Roger came on clay, that it’s a repeat of last year’s round of 16, and that Stan is coming off a tough 5 setter.

At these rates, we love Monfils as well.  And we’ll take the one hander, Montanes, over Fognini, who is just happy to have made the round of 16, in all likelihood.  Though we like Gasquet’s game, would we dare go against the mighty Djokovic?  Probably not, but keep in mind he is playing a match on a third consecutive day, and a win would give him one more than McEnroe’s perfect 42-0 start to 1984.

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

Fabio Fognini (above), who took out Gael Monfils in Paris in the match famously marred by darkness, led a day of upsets for seeded players on both sides at Wimbledon.



Fognini, never past the 2nd round at SW-19, took out 8th seeded Fernando Verdasco, 7-6 (9), 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-4 and will now draw Michael Russell of the United States, in what is sure to be a very boring grass court contest, as neither player is suited to the grass.

Another Italian, pop gun player Andreas Seppi, somehow took out another seeded Spaniard, defeating 19th seeded Nicolas Almagro in straights, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (7), 6-2.  It’s getting to the point where Almagro is going to have to come up with better play at the majors, as we can hardly recall Almagro winning a big match on a decent stage.

Bad day for Spaniards, as one more seeded Spaniard fell–former French champ Juan Carlos Ferrero, the 14th seed, lost to Xavier Malisse in 5 sets, 6-2, 6-7 (6), 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-1.

Lukas Lacko took out 24th seeded Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis, a one time semi-finalist at Wimbledon, 6-3, 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.

On the women’s side, French finalist and 6th seed, Sam Stosur was upset by Estonian Kaia Kanepi, 6-4, 6-4.

Anna Chakvetadze, back from the dead, upset German Andrea Petkovic, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Roumanian Monica Niculescu upset Argentine Gisela Dulko, 6-2, 6-3.

Dominika Cibulkova defeated the very hot 25th seed, Lucie Safarova, 7-6 (5), 6-4.

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

Neither top seed Roger Federer nor 2nd seed Rafael Nadal were taxed in their matches this morning at Roland Garros, as Federer advances to the round of 16 at a major for the 25th time in 26 tries, with a 6-4, 6-0, 6-4 victory in 1 hour and 33 minutes.  For Nadal, the Spaniard advanced to the third round by beating Horacio Zeballos of Argentina, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 in 1 hour and 45 minutes, in a match that had been postponed due to constant rains.

Federer match stats:

     Federer (SUI)   Reister (GER)
  1st Serve % 41 of 72 = 57 % 61 of 80 = 76 %
  Aces 6 1
  Double Faults 3 2
  Unforced Errors 18 19
  Winning % on 1st Serve 36 of 41 = 88 % 32 of 61 = 52 %
  Winning % on 2nd Serve 19 of 28 = 68 % 9 of 17 = 53 %
  Winners (Including Service) 34 10
  Receiving Points Won 39 of 80 = 49 % 17 of 72 = 24 %
  Break Point Conversions 5 of 13 = 38 % 0 of 0 = 0 %
  Net Approaches 20 of 24 = 83 % 9 of 18 = 50 %
  Total Points Won 94 58
   Fastest Serve Speed 208 KMH 203 KMH
   Average 1st Serve Speed 189 KMH 182 KMH
   Average 2nd Serve Speed 159 KMH 153 KMH

Nadal match stats:

     Zeballos (ARG)   Nadal (ESP)
  1st Serve % 48 of 76 = 63 % 59 of 74 = 80 %
  Aces 2 1
  Double Faults 0 2
  Unforced Errors 23 12
  Winning % on 1st Serve 24 of 48 = 50 % 47 of 59 = 80 %
  Winning % on 2nd Serve 13 of 28 = 46 % 7 of 13 = 54 %
  Winners (Including Service) 24 23
  Receiving Points Won 20 of 74 = 27 % 39 of 76 = 51 %
  Break Point Conversions 1 of 6 = 17 % 6 of 10 = 60 %
  Net Approaches 5 of 13 = 38 % 16 of 21 = 76 %
  Total Points Won 57 93
   Fastest Serve Speed 200 KMH 201 KMH
   Average 1st Serve Speed 178 KMH 173 KMH
   Average 2nd Serve Speed 154 KMH 140 KMH


Federer will either play fellow Swiss and Olympic gold medal doubles partner, Stanislas Wawrinka in the round of 16, or Italian Fabio Fognini, wwho famoulsy put away crowd favorite Gael Monfils in a 2 day contest.  Nadal will play former Wimbledon and US Open champion Lleyton Hewitt in the 3rd round.






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

World # 92, Italian Fabio Fognini, raises his arms, exalted, after finishing off 13th seeded Frenchman Gael Monfils on Court Philippe Chatrier (above).

Justice was done on Court Philippe Chatrier today, despite a biased umpire, a savagely nationalistic crowd, and a more talented opponent, willing to make a mockery of the sport in order to keep a match going 16 minutes after sunset.


Fabio Fognini, down love-40 in the deciding game, pulled out a procession of drop shots, and played a steady match point, keeping the pressure on Gael Monfils, the gambler, who usually can rally back and forth all day.  But not so today under the Paris spotlight (we mean that figuratively only, of course), as Monfils crumbled under the pressure, and dumped the ball into the net, setting up a date between Stanislas Wawrinka and Fabulous Fabio, for a chance to possibly meet top seed Roger Federer in the round of 16.

We have been highly critical of Monfils, whose act of crowd manipulation grows tiresome quickly, and who is perhaps an all time worst sportsman in tennis in the category of Jimmy Connors, Ilie Nastasie, and Jeff Tarango.  Although, we’ve been more critical of Monfils for taking time off during his best stretch of the season, the clay court season, to try his hand at professional poker.


For Monfils, it truly was a fool’s bet indeed, as it will be hard to argue that his lack of match clay–crucial to clay court success–did not contribute to his worst showing at his home major since losing in the first round at Roland Garros in 2005 as an 18 year old.  Now the question for Monfils becomes will the Frenchman skip Wimbledon, which he has done the last two years, claiming shoulder and wrist injuries.

As for Fognini, the win over Monfils represents the biggest in his career, under the most adverse circumstances.  Fognini advances to the 3rd round of a major for the first time, with today’s win.  The Italian class act could hardly have been faulted had he refused to shake hands with the chair, Carlos Bernardes, or with Monfils, but Fognini did not refuse to partake in those acts of ceremony.

The Italian even had some love for the crowd, who he blew kisses to amid their jeering (below), as the awful French crowd stayed in character right to the bitter end. 

Fognini takes it, 9-7 in the fifth in a match where the right guy one, if ever there was one.

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

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