Igor Andreev


The deadly Milos Raonic serve (above) which produced 14 aces today.

We are kicking ourselves this morning after just having seen Canadian wunderkind Milos Raonic upset world #4 Andy Murray at Sabadell in Barcelona, 6-4, 7-6 (3). Last night we had identified the match in which Raonic was +300 as a potential upset, though we were reluctant and did not pull the trigger. We were of the mind that Murray, after going toe to toe versus both Djokovic and Nadal last year on the dirt, and with the addition of Lendl to his camp, simply moved too well for a Raonic on clay at this stage.

On clay it is very hard not to take the better mover, but clay is changing. How many times in recent years have we seen power surprise us on clay? We all recall Sunday Bloody Sunday, our affectionate name for the day on which Soderling outslugged Nadal. We’ve also seen big men like Del Potro and Isner excel on clay, both seriously tussling with Nadal in DC and Isner taking Rafa to 5 sets at RG, the only time that’s happened.

So after a breezy first set of tennis in which Murray did not get a single sniff on the Raonic serve, we knew it was uphill sledding for Murray, who simply could not dial in for any real traction. Raonic has very wisely gone about his business since leaving the American “hardcourts”.

Not many North Americans rolled out to MC last week but Raonic was there, and though he lost in the 2nd round, he got 2 matches in. Spaniard Galo Blanco should be a tremendous asset in preparing the kid for clay. The coach has been that this year. Taking Raonic to Spain to train has been a successful tact for many looking to beef up on clay, including Andy Murray, today’s loser, and Svetlana Kuznetsova, who won at Roland Garros after a hard spring spent training in Spain.

Raonic has improved laterally, but what the kid does best aside from serve is think the game and keep to plans. As much as a 6’6 kid improves his side to side, you aren’t out laterally moving Andy Murray. The kid hit serve bombs and loaded forehands, playing the match on his own terms. Once he had the 1st set, you got the sense that Murray was in big trouble and he was.

Raonic is an excellent front runner and he has legs on clay, winning four matches in straights this week, 3 against specialists (Falla, Andreev, Almagro).

We had him against Almagro, liking the line very much (+200). Too bad we hesitated last night. A little too much credit we afforded Murray, who we had pencilled in for Sunday’s final.

Now we know that Raonic’s style, well described by our man G-Stob as “blunt force trauma”, is ready to keep on red clay. Raonic may even play through to Sunday’s final, especially since at the moment, David Ferrer is struggling mightily with Feliciano Lopez (6-7, 3-3). Raonic has trouble with the pesky Ferrer, though we would like to see that matchup revisited, especially with Raonic playing so well.

Raonic’s victory today was his first ever against a top 5 opponent. First of many to come. We look forward also to seeing Tipsarevic-Nadal today. We took a flyer on Tipsy at a whopping +1500.

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Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka (left) discussing doubles strategy in Davis Cup (above).

Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka are off to a good start, in their first doubles pairing since taking the gold against the Bryan brothers in 2008 in Beijing.  In the main draw of the doubles together at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, the Swiss team obliterated the tested major doubles winners Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor, who recently paired after Nestor split from long time patner, Serbian Nenad Zimonjic, with whom he had won 3 major titles.  Zimonjic and Nestor represented the stiffest competition in doubles for the Bryan brothers over recent years and were widely considered no worse than #2 and perhaps even the best doubles pair in the men’s game while together.  Nestor also enjoyed immense success with Mark Knowles, with whom he also won 3 major titles with on the men’s side.  Mirnyi is a 4 time major doubles champion and a 3 time major mixed champion, winning two titles with Serena Williams and one with Victoria Azarenka.

The new team of Mirnyi and Nestor went to the semi-finals in Melbourne at their first major together, and recently in Memphis, they took home their first hardware.  But on the soft as clay slow Plexicushion of IW, the new team was no match for Roger and Stan, who thoroughly dominated on the way to a 6-1, 6-2 victory.  Federer and Wawrinka will face crafty Frenchmen Benneteau and Gasquet in the round of 16, and could possibly face defending champs Nadal/Lopez in the semis, though a matchup with Wimbledon champs Melzer/Petzschner possibly looms for the Spaniards.

As for Federer announcing his first Davis Cup participation since a fairly meaningless go round with the Italians in 2009, we can’t claim that little old us had anything to do with it, but the Fed D.C. word did come a few days after we had taken Rog to task for his lack of participation:

Again, we get it.  Federer is the all time mens singles major champion with the Swiss flag behind him, so what does it matter that he doesn’t have a DC title?  A tennis purist would say it does matter some.  There is no definitive greatest player of all time, and everyone from Borg to McEnroe, Sampras, and Nadal have won the DC, and in most cases, had at least one title they were the impetus behind.  The only greats we can think of that have not won the Davis Cup are the ultra selfish and loutish Jimmy Connors, and Federer. Perhaps Federer, like Connors did, will feel the hole in his immortal resume, and come back to Davis Cup in his twilight years.  And unlike Connors, Federer is great enough to pull off such a thing and win a late DC title, maybe even into his early 30′s.  Maybe Federer has lost a bit of his ‘major edge’ because he isn’t as tested in Davis Cup lately and in the best of 5 set format as the last 3 guys who have beaten him at majors, Soderling, Berdych, and Djokovic.

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Yeah, we didn’t want to make too much of it, but we’ve been quietly directing Roger’s career for some time, if you must know.  The Annacone hire, now the return to Davis Cup and to tour doubles competition…what purist wouldn’t be happy?

Federer needs to keep his head here at IW in the coming days when it comes to his singles draw.  With wins over Andreev tomorrow and then the Chela/Petzschner winner, and if Canadian budding super-star Milos Raonic, holding firm at world #37 and fresh off his first ever Masters Series match win yesterday, can defeat Mardy Fish tomorrow for the 2nd time in 3 weeks and then take the winner of Ryan Harrison/GG Lopez, then Federer and Raonic would meet in the round of 16.

Not that we are worried, but in our honest assessment, Raonic is already a big time player and is definitely the best North American youngster to come up through Canada or America since Andy Roddick did 10 years ago.  Much more on Raonic to follow, and we’ll pay particular attention to a Federer/Raonic matchup, should we be lucky enough to see that come off.

Federer and Raonic will both play in televised matches Sunday on The Tennis Channel.

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If you’ve noticed that Rafael Nadal has simply breezed through 4 rounds in Melbourne, that he’s yet to be given a true test, and that he’s only been on the court about 7 hours total so far, then you might not think David Ferrer, the 7 seed, has much chance tomorrow morning.  Well, we’re with you, and so is Las Vegas.  Here are the odds on the match:

Rafael Nadal: – 1000 (bet 1000 units to win 100 plus initial wager)

David Ferrer: + 600 (bet 100 units to win 600 plus initial wager)

Now if we are fishing for positives as to why Ferrer does have a shot, keep these facts in mind: Ferrer is 3-2 against Nadal on hardcourts in his career.  Ferrer is the only man to defeat Nadal at a major when losing the first set.  Ferrer is one of only 5 men on the tour to defeat Nadal on clay (the other 4 are Soderling, Federer, Andreev, and Gonzo).  Ferrer and Nadal are both Spaniards and have the nationalistic rivalry going.  Ferrer is also undefeated so far in 2011.

As for the early men’s match, Murray vs. Dolgopolov Jr., the 2 men have never faced off.  Dolgopolov Jr. comes in off stunning 5 set upsets of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Robin Soderling.  The odds for that match are the same as above, with Murray going off at – 1000.

A Murray-Nadal semi would be a rematch of last year, which went easily to Murray.  Like last year, the outcome of that match will likely decide the tournament, as Nadal would be favored over Federer/Djokovic winner, while Murray would likely beat Djokovic.  Murray is 0-2 vs. Federer in major finals, and has yet to take a set off of Roger in a big spot.

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