Killer Cahill


Ivan Lendl (above, R.) makes time for new pupil Andy Murray.  But will he make enough time?

We’ve been meaning to admonish Andy Murray a little.  Perhaps it was good we waited, in light of the news that he was banged up in Miami.  We’re still gonna admonish him, but if he was nursing a hip injury it would explain why he didn’t execute on his game plan in Sunday’s Miami final against Djokovic.

We didn’t see much from Murray there who was extremely lucky to be in that final.  We know Murray likes playing on this surface, theoretically.  But he hasn’t played nearly as well in Miami on the Defensepro surface as he has on Plexicushion, where he has made 2 Australian finals and in one of the semis dominated Rafael Nadal.  Defensepro is the slowest hard surface at any of the stops on the tour.  Floridians like their hardcourts to be gritty and sandy.  All of their players seem to be In the mold of their matriarch, Chris Evert.  Pushers until the end.  Though Evert did it all on the court as well as anyone and these little girls and boys just seem to embody the pukey pusher stuff.

Theoretically, Murray is ideal at pukey pusher.  In actuality, he does better when he dictates and goes for his ground strokes.  He doesn’t get any free points at all on that slow of a court and that’s too few for anyone.  So a guy like Tipsarevic, who takes some initiative, can do damage.  But Murray goes classic grinder, letting it get to where he was a set and a break down before really grinding it out.  And in doing so, he comes up a little lame on what looked to be his left side, probably off another back footed forehand.  He seemed to tweak his left hip.  Still he pulled out that match and won his next on a Nadal retirement.  Who is surprised by that (but that’s another story)?

So Murray, we thought looked good in that match based on Nadal’s gimped out knee.  After looking at how Djokovic dismantled Murray in that final, we’d like to reconsider.  Murray might have been hampered in that match.  Could Djokovic have dominated like that for so long if Murray was right?  Probably.  But the last few matchups have been very close.  Djokovic is the king of slow hardcourts after all though.  His winning in a route over anyone could not come as all that surprising.

But Murray seemed abnormally frustrated in that match to us.  We are thinking he was not right.  Even so, he’s had a healthy year so far and he has made the final of the year’s only major.  The Lendl philosophy has been omitted from certain matches, like his loss to Guillermo Garcia Lopez at Indian Wells.  He played classic pusher tennis, thinking his gameplan could be simple enough to just direct toward the Lopez backhand.  Too simple indeed, and though it worked against Tipsarevic in South Beach, the effect of the grind left Murray too lame for Djokovic.

Lendl is there to remake the Murray forehand and embolden the kid to do more than push.  Though he’s not really there there to the point were Cahill is sub coaching a bunch.  Cahill and Lendl have very different philosophies.  Lendl is also there to improve the gameplanning.  Just directing to a guy’s backhand seemed to be the Cahill strategy, and that’s about the speed of a Cahill blueprint.  That style will however suit him well on clay where, in our minds, he has improved a great deal.  Murray seemed to play all his matches on clay with  confidence.  He made the semis at Roland Garros.  He looked to have a real shot against Djokovic in Rome where he took the 1st set 6-1.  That was one of the best sets he played all last year and one of the best anyone played all year.

So hard to predict how he’ll come into the clay season.  He seemed last year to really find his footing on clay, but he did get in a nice rhythm with matches.  We think that this year his success on clay will be tied to Lendl.  Lendl was an excellent clay courter, winning 3 FO titles.  If Lendl is there running the show then Murray can do a lot of damage.

That’s a far cry from where we are usually at with him.  At one point we were convinced he’d never pan out on clay.  But now he is probably 4th or 5th best on clay with a much more realistic shot at taking out a Titan in the big spot.  Lendl is perhaps the biggest winner in coaching right now with 8 majors.  Lendl gets Murray so well because he also liked to ground stroke people to death once upon a time.  Lendl was one of the first players to start passing up volleys in favor of big forehands.  Bad tennis.  We hate to see that.  Happens every few seconds in the women’s game, and almost that frequently in the men’s game.

To be very honest though, while Murray is a fine talent, he is not the Lendl doomsday stroking machine.  Lendl’s poor short game and shaky transition skills prevented him from ever winning Wimbledon, which served him right for essentially starting the trend away from complete tennis.  Murray, a pretty good doubles player, actually does have great hands at net.  But as we’ve said of Murray’s hands at net, they are more like the tree falling in the forest.  How would anyone know about them if he never actually uses them?

Hopefully Lendl will give the kid an honest appraisal of what it takes to win Wimbledon, a sort of ‘the error in my ways’ speech.  The irony is rich.  Wimbledon being so big for Murray, as it was for Lendl, who won everything but.  But first, Lendl has to get the kid primed for clay season, a far easier task with Murray’s skills seeming to really click on clay last year, but hard enough via cell phone or skype.

So we’d really like Murray on clay, a bit more than on grass anyway, if we knew that Lendl was actually going to be there.  After Murray spent a month with Lendl prior to Australia, his forehand looked cleaner than ever.  the last few weeks though, his forehand looks more like another Adidas star, Caroline Wozniacki.  While we said recently that we’d be happy to take zero for our over/under on Murray career majors, we could also see him winning big on every surface.  It’s that close.

We know Lendl sees it too.  He wouldn’t roll out of bed for just anyone.  He was after all completely absent from the tour almost all of these years since retiring.  But if he still has that yen to be away from the game as much as he has been since taking Murray’s reins, then he is the wrong man for Murray, who’s youth is fading fast.

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Guillermo Garcia Lopez (above), slicing and dicing Andy Murray with the one hander, all the live long day.

It was our viewing pleasure to watch the pride of the isles, “the best world #4 of all time”, Andy Murray Saturday in his latest travail.  On successive Saturdays, Murray excited us with his losses, and we say to that, kudos!  About the best #4 nonsense, know that is no title we attached, but rather, something that we think Doug Adler’s partner of late, Sam Wilder (?) has been trying to make stick to sell soap probably while feeding into the great Andy Murray hype machine.  We don’t like Murray.  Never did.  Never will.  But sometimes we have to root for him, like when he plays Nadal.  Since we have to root for him at times, we’d like to see him play the kind of tennis he needs to in order to win.  We’d like to see him lean forward when he strikes his forehand, so that the shot has the full weight of his momentum.  One thing these guys should learn is that cute does not win big.  Must we recall Federer getting cute with Nadal on that drop shot toward the end of the second set last year at Roland Garros?  Or Federer blowing a threw the legs volley against Safin down under in 2005?

Cute doesn’t win.  So when Andy Murray draws a guy in and that guy is to be a lame duck at net on a conventional pass, and Murray tries to throw up a fancy lob when he has an entire alley both cross court and up the line, well, then there’s a moment where you say to yourself that Ivan Lendl in the kid’s box has to take that out of the playbook.  The opponent, GG Lopez, is not exactly a little man at 6’2, and going with an offensive lob in a night match subject to desert winds, is simply not very bright.  This play, one of the very few in the entire match dictated by Murray, which he lost when Lopez slam dunked the lob into the crowd, was everything wrong with the old Andy Murray, which he has supposedly shed like bad skin.

We know better.  It’s very hard to squeeze a yellow streak out of player.  Make no mistake about it.  Djokovic was a pussy, and that was a mental issue, and not a tennis issue.  Djokovic plays brave tennis.  His body and mind had to leave the pussy behind, and they did.  Murray is a different story.  He has never played brave tennis.  He’s a puke.  And since he is so good against the average guy, he rarely has to play brave tennis, and so he really only tries to play brave against Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer and aside from some small successes and moral victories, he hasn’t been getting it done against those guys.  The Lendl I know was like Djokovic.  Didn’t play soft tennis, but he was soft, and so he found a way to become hard.  Murray is physically hard.  He’s a great athlete, and at any given event, may be the best conditioned guy present.  Lendl is trying to adjust the kid’s style of play, because as our good buddies Justin Gimelstob and Doug Adler always say, backboard tennis is simply not good enough at the top level.

So TTC cameras kept showing Murray’s mum and Lopez’s team, but I don’t see Lendl anywhere.  This Wilder (?) guy talked and talked like Lendl was in the coaching box though, or, as if Lendl is God’s gift to coaching and that now Murray is a veritable terminator.  Then the cameras focus on Darren Cahill, decked out like a clown in crazy colored Adidas attire, and the announcers casually mention that Lendl isn’t there, again, and so Murray wanted Cahill there, because he can call on any coaches in the Adidas stable.  Now, we joked last week that Cahill was perhaps the only coach around worse than Murray’s mum and so that’s the guy he chooses, the worst pusher hack coach available, who we could imagine telling Murray it was a good idea to pussy foot around with Lopez and hit lots of balls to his backhand and keep the rallies going because a guy like Lopez will break down.

Clearly it was what Wilder (?) thought, who kept implying, broken record, that Lopez was not going to be able to sustain the level, and then almost creaming when Lopez went down love forty in about the 6th game of the 1st set.  But Adler gritted his teeth, clearly not a good match chemistry wise with this annoying fuck, and when Lopez had dug out of that hole and when about an hour later, had a 6-4, 6-2 victory, we were as gratified as Adler at the fact that a classic one hander, a shot maker, had stepped up and that backboard tennis wasn’t good enough, not even against the world #98.

While we don’t like Murray, we are past the point of hating him.  His tears in Melbourne 2010 sort of humanized him for us in a way, and we get all the pressure that comes with being perhaps the first Brit since Fred Perry to do something in the game.  We’d have been thrilled regardless of who the pusher was and who the glider was on Saturday night.  But Lendl is off globe trotting to exos while his boy, in a week’s time, went from hot back to hangdog.  And Cahill, who comes from a different school of thought than Lendl, if you can call it that, is presiding over this horrible loss.

Lopez played brilliant tennis.  He had reasoned out that Murray’s game plan was not to try to win, but to make less errors than his opponent.  So Lopez did not make any errors.  Lopez went backhand to backhand with Murray and did not break down.  When he could take the ball early, he ripped the one hander and had Murray scrambling.  When he couldn’t, he sliced the backhand, totally neutralizing Murray.  He even hit a clean winner off a slice backhand, which was possible because Murray guessed the wrong way, and Lopez was all over it.

A lot of times, really big name guys don’t get totally into the commitment aspect of coaching on the tour.  It seems like Lendl is that type of guy.  You can’t even describe Indian Wells as a minor event if you tried.  5th major?  Nonsense.  There are four majors, and that 5th major talk is frankly disrespectful to the history of the game.  But how is Lendl not here for Murray?  Murray needs a full time coach.  We never sound any alarms when guys lose in the Masters Series, because for all of that nonsense ‘kinda major’ type talk, it was just one match.  But we see some things breaking badly for Andy Murray, and he needs to pay attention because he is not a major champion and he is very unlikely to change that at Roland Garros or Wimbledon.  His youth is vanishing, and we feel, given his propensity for the yellow streak, he is far from a lock to win any major ever, and may go out with a fat zero by his name.  If we had to bet on a number of majors for him in fact, we’d happily take zero.

Less of a problem for our lefty love, Petra Kvitova, who somehow lost to American Christina McHale last night.  Kvitova has the hardware, for one.  For her, a slump is more permissible.  Sure, she hasn’t played great tennis, and has little business losing to McHale, but McHale is making her name as the American Radwanska after all, is she not?  We don’t think it’s more than a little slump.  It’s not like an Ivanovic slump where she wins the major and then goes underground.  Kvitova won Wimbledon, then didn’t have the ideal summer, but ended the year as the veritable number one, winning the YEC and the Fed Cup, virtually unbeatable the final 9 weeks of the year.

We think Kvitova might have figured on winning down under, and that loss to Sharapova was a bad shock to her system.  In our minds, she was a big favorite in Melbourne, and she had been virtually untouchable coming in, and could not have been quivering at the thought of taking on that field.  We can’t argue against Azarenka right now, who has definitely proved she earned the ranking.  But we will remain resolute that Kvitova is the better player of the two, and we’d expect that to begin to bear out again on clay the way that it had on indoor hards at the end of 2011.

Kvitova is a better clay courter than Azarenka, and probably, like a lot of people, she can’t wait to get off these tacky American slow hardcourts.  BTW, just saw Mardy Fish get finished off by Matthew Ebden.  Good of Mardy to put a youngster on the map like that.

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Kevin Anderson (above) proved the bigger man last night in Delray against Giant John Isner, and so today he gets to play for the title in Delray Beach.

So we had today’s finalists, Anderson and Matosevic yesterday, and we said that we expected Anderson to pick up his 2nd career title here today, in his 3rd trip to a final ever on the ATP’s main tour.  Matosevic first.  We have not seen a more unworthy finalist in some time.  We regretted going with him almost immediately, when in the 1st set, he blew a 4-1 lead and dropped that set 7-5.

When we picked up the match later on, we were as surprised as any to see the guy up 4-1 in the 3rd.  And then he proceeded to throw that away, before winning in an unlikely tie-breaker on his 6th match point.  We thought he had a solid serve game, but Dudi Sela broke him something like 6 times yesterday, and on the biggest points on his serve, he was missing the box by a mile, and even double faulted away one of those MP’s.

We just don’t like his tennis.  His forehand is loopy.  Too much air.  He was laying the forehand in play, and every ball, you felt like was going to float long because the kid hits floaters.  Almost every approach was one where he netted the volley or one where he hit a tentative volley that sat up for Sela.  Honest to God, this match was atrocious.  Imagine my horror, when returning to the set in the evening I had found that I had accidentally deleted Federer-Murray instead of Matosevic-Sela.

Well, Marinko…thanks for the memories.  We would not bet on you again with other people’s money.  No wonder this guy didn’t win a match prior to this week on the year, and in watching him, you really get to see what world #173 looks like.  He has zero chance today.  Zero.  This is going to be a one sided affair, and so even though Anderson is a healthy favorite, he is the only play.  Here are the odds:

2012 Delray Beach International Mens Tennis Championship — 3 PM EST

Kevin Anderson:  – 450

Marinko Matosevic:  + 325

…..

Take Anderson and run.  This kid has real promise, unlike his counterpart today.  There’s a lot swirling around in the Isner-Anderson matchup, and Anderson showed us the things we thought he would.  Anderson is the better mover, and he really had his feet going last night.  We see this as a problem for Isner against guys who can hold serve well enough.  Anderson, for a 6’8 guy, does have a tennis build.  Isner is too big, and he lumbers too much.  Also, these guys know each other very well.  While Anderson is South African, he played his college tennis at Illinois, where he was an NCAA champion.  He and Isner were college rivals and are pro rivals, and we really don’t see how there is so much difference between them in the rankings, though that gap will be narrowed come tomorrow.  Isner is not a good bet against guys who hold serve the way he does.  Those matches are toss ups, decided by tie-breakers, and Isner should never be a big favorite in that situation because a tie-breaker is often decided by the smallest of margins.

Now a word on the Abierto final, in which Fernando Verdasco, a true dog’s dog (a comment about his character, not his underdog status) did not even show up, thereby costing us a very handsome four team parlay (Federer, Matosevic, Anderson, Verdasco).  Novak Djokovic once lost to Verdasco at the US Open.  That’s got to be a worse loss even than retiring due to heat exhaustion in Melbourne against Andy Roddick.  Verdasco, against a fellow countryman, completely mailed it in.

We said here yesterday that he’s poorly coached.  We’ll say it again.  Cahill is best known for his shoddy commentator gig on ESPN.  Federer hired him to coach him after splitting from Tony Roache, and then fired him one week later.  The guy expects guys to grind, and yet, against a grinder in Ferrer, Verdasco did not even compete.  As we said, it was a tired Ferrer as well.  All credit to Ferrer, now with 3 titles this season.  He really is a tremendous player, and he rarely if ever loses to people who shouldn’t beat him.

But for Verdasco to lose a 6-1 first set in 25 minutes, and to only get 3 games total?  It’s no wonder Verdasco has gone from near a top five player to a guy who is barely in the top 30.  Really a shameful effort.  Very telling as to Verdasco’s will, which is non existent.  Ferrer even had the shorter turn around time, as Verdasco got done early Friday and had an extra 7 or so hours to rest and plot.

So that’s just a pitiful, disgraceful display.  We’ve shaken our heads before at Verdasco, especially when he complains, which is often enough, but we really thought he had a big opportunity that he was ready for yesterday.

We won’t be betting him again either.

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Australia’s Serbian born Marinko Matosevic (above), playing for his first ever tour final berth today in Florida.

Can’t say as we’re surprised and not delighted by the morning’s result, with Roger claiming his 5th career title in Dubai, and his first since 2007 with a 7-5, 6-4 victory in 1:37 over Andy Murray. For Roger, the title is his second of the year, second consecutive title (Rotterdam), and 72nd career tournament victory. Yeah, we were all over the action this morning, as we hinted last night, as it is certainly a most rare opportunity to lay the theoretical shekel on Roger Federer at so close to an even money line (-135). It was also most rare, of late, when Andy Murray had occasion to break the great man, in the 18th game of the match. Federer allowed 3 break points today, and saved two, but that was well more than yesterday when he neither faced nor allowed any against Del Potro. In fact, prior to Murray’s second set break of serve, the great man was not broken since the quarters in Rotterdam, a six match streak without being broken.

We’ve definitely noticed that Federer’s serve is beefed up, not just in the last two weeks either. Annacone has definitely impressed upon his liege the importance of making serve games stick, which was the hallmark of his former liege, Pistol Pete. As for the Federer-Murray matchup, the rivalry has seemed to dip decidedly towards Roger, with him taking 5 out of the last 7, all on hards. In fact, all 15 of their faceoffs have come on hards. What a dream it would be to see the two go at it on grass, and since the only grass event they play in common is Wimbledon, we’d be happy to take it at SW-19. As for Murray, Ivan Lendl’s new liege, the partnership has definitely been bearing fruit, and we’re surprised at how quickly. A testament to both men.

But tennis is so much in the matchup of styles, and while Murray has seemed to have made strides against The Djoker, over the course of 18 months, has seemed to reverted a bit against Nadal and Federer. Especially stuck in our craw were his semi-finals against Nadal at Wimbledon and the USO where he went down meekly in 4 sets. Andy Meekly, um, we mean Murray, is a guy we are anxious to see against Rafa, because we think Lendl joining the fray on the side of the Scot could have an impact in what is otherwise a one way Nadal fest. Both major semis were major disappointments. Murray, up an early set and a break at Wimbledon, where the crowd is his, came apart at the seams, and what’s worse, couldn’t recover in a 5 set match. Then in Flushing, where he has beaten Nadal in the same spot, seemed dead on arrival, making way for the epic Nadal-Djokovic rematch.

But what do you expect of a player who allows his mum to devise his game plan against Nadal? Now that Lendl is weighing in, we’re of the mind that Murray will give Nadal less of the off speed stuff he devours, and more pace, which pushes him back. If you noticed positioning back at their Wimbledon semi, when Murray drifted back of the baseline for good, which was around the 2nd game of the second set, then the match turned.

Because Murray and Federer send so much off speed stuff back at Nadal, he can easily pick his spots versus those players. But notice how Djokovic goes at Nadal with power and it works. Then there are no spots to pick. Both players really need to hit hard at Nadal at all times, and for some reason, the mighty coach Annacone hasn’t incorporated the play into Roger’s permanent Nadal play book. But back to Dubai, where we caught a whiff of content off Dandy Andy 2.0 off of the stunning upset of Djokovic. Perhaps the kid saw some of his press clippings, about the revenge on Djokovic and all that fluffy nonsense. And we can’t recall when Murray has ever beaten two such fine opponents as Federer and Djokovic on back to back days. Then there’s Rog, who went to Rotterdam for the first time in 9 years, then to Dubai. Why would he add a tournament like Rotterdam to his schedule? Because he wanted a win under his belt. Now Federer has two wins under the belt, with the unlikely win today.

Another guy with two wins on the year is David Ferrer, who Justin Gimelstob accurately described earlier in the week as the guy who gets the absolute most out of his talent out of anyone on the tour. Indeed. Ferrer is a gamer. But in this matchup, Verdasco seems to have some life. He leads the head to head 7-6, and is one of the few men to have an advantage over Ferrer on clay, where he is 6-3. Verdasco has not won a tournament in two years and Ferrer looked dead at times last night against a week opponent in Santiago Giraldo. Here are the odds:

2012 Abierto Mexicano Telcel Mens Final — 10 PM EST

David Ferrer: – 260

Fernando Verdasco: + 200

…..

We like Verdasco and this positive money line. Even though he’s coached by know nothing Darren “killer” Cahill, probably a slight downgrade from Andy Murray’s mum. Remember, this is a matchup and tennis is all in the matchups, and Verdasco here has the edge. In Delray, on another dubious hardcourt, there are two matches on tap, and we like the underdogs in both. Here are the odds:

2012 Delray Beach International Tennis Championships — Semi-finals

Marinko Matosevic: + 130

Dudi Sela: – 150

__ __ __ __

Kevin Anderson: + 165

John Isner: – 210

……

We are going with Matosevic and Anderson here. Say what you want about Dudi Sela, and we love a good little one hander, as you know, but this guy is not a good favorite. Though Matosevic had not won a match before showing up in South Florida this year, he’s gotten on a roll here, taking out past Champion Ernests Gulbis along the way, and he’s a lanky guy whose serve seems to be clicking.

Anderson scored a decent upset of Roddick earlier in the week. These two giants play close matches, lots of breakers and whatnot, and we feel, despite the rankings, that Anderson, at this time, is the sharper returner. Whomever gets the traction going in the return game is going to rule the day. We’ll say that’s Anderson, despite our regular interest in Isner.

In fact, we will be betting for Anderson to go on to win his second career title tomorrow here in Delray Beach.

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