Laura Robson


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

……….

Balls struck by the Andy Murray backhand on the Saturday preceding the US Open (above).  Notice those string marks.

As you know from our page, we’ve taken Andy Murray very seriously since he hired Ivan Lendl.  We weren’t in love with what we considered a bit of a backslide, pardon pun, on clay, after what we thought was a really strong showing, especially against Djokovic and Nadal at Rome and Monte Carlo in 2011.  He didn’t do much to build on that this year, and we thought it a bad sign.  Although, losing to ultimate warrior David Ferrer in the quarters, who has his number on clay, is not at all a bad showing when you still make the quarters.  We thought Murray was going to be the first Brit to hold a trophy on clay since the 70’s on the men’s side (albeit a lesser trophy), and we still do.  But obviously that didn’t happen in 2012, and it doesn’t really matter, since Murray won Olympic gold and his first major at Flushing, in dramatic 5 set fashion over nemesis Novak Djokovic.  And finally, there was a couple of finals in real pressure cooker spots where you could say that Murray, Andy Murray of Great Britain, was the guy who wanted it more, who kept it together when it all could have went south.  Good for him.  Beating Federer at the Wimbledon Olympiad, a tired Federer or whatever, was still his biggest win up til then.  Perhaps he needed that second 5 setter versus Federer to get out all the mistakes and nerves.  Seemed that way.  Perhaps the partisan nationalist crowd was a factor.  That also seemed to be true.  But Murray played the better tennis and deserved to walk out with the win.  Anytime you beat Djokovic and Federer in successive matches, you deserve to hold the trophy.

At the US Open, Murray played an excellent semi-final against Berdych, in terrible conditions due to wind.  Frankly, we think the wind aided Murray a great deal.  Berdych was poised to dictate that match on his forehand, sans the wind.  Even Murray, an excellent returner, could not have dreamed for more opportunities on second balls than the wind afforded him on Super Saturday.  And Murray didn’t wow us against Marin Cilic, who was thisclose to taking the new champ out in the quarters prior to his coronation.  But it takes some luck, some nerves on the part of the competition, some upsets, and it takes resolve under pressure, which Murray showed when down to Cilic, in the wind versus Berdy, and in the wind versus Djokovic in that final, and when Djokovic had stormed back from 2 sets to the bad.

Murray has the game to win majors and put it all together this summer in 2 very big spots.  Is he a better player than any of the big 3?  No.  But he had never defeated Djokovic (0-2 prior to the Open final, both matches at Melbourne) or Federer (0-3 prior to the Olympic gold medal match) in a 5 set match prior to this summer, and now he has beaten each on their respective favorite surface.  Well done indeed.

Does it mean we expect to see Murray leap frogging better players at the top of the game?  No.  Djokovic deserves the ranking.  He went to 3 major finals, won one, and reached the Wimbledon semi.  He is still top dog.  Federer gets to play the rest of the season on his beloved indoor courts where the wind doesn’t affect his toss or his groundstrokes.  Just recall his performance against Murray in the Wimbledon final once they covered Centre Court.  We don’t see Federer losing too many matches from here on out, and he may do enough to end the year at #1.  Federer certainly has the YEC in his sights yet again.

We also see Djokovic learning some really important lessons this year, as it is far different as the hunted than as the hunter.  We think Djokovic became perhaps a little too impatient on all surfaces this year, a little too frustrated this year, outside of Melbourne, in spots where he was record clutch just about everywhere in 2011.  While the attack mode plays best at Wimbledon, and we did like Djokovic to win there, frankly, Roger taught him a few tricks of the trade on grass, and failed let Djokovic dismantle the Federer backhand, as Federer has been an ace at stepping around the backhand in his most recent matches with Djokovic.  And if Djokovic gets a windless day a few Mondays back, or if he wins that first set when up 4-2 in that breaker, he probably hoists his 2nd Open trophy.  But he didn’t play well enough or get enough breaks.  So what we see coming of it is that Djokovic goes into hyper work mode, as he did toward the end of 2010, when he broke through his plateau against Nadal.  Djokovic is going to be the driving force in the men’s game next year.  We are confident of that.

Murray and Robson (above) at Hopman Cup in Perth, 2010.

Murray is going to be a serious player at the hardcourt majors and Wimbledon for a long time to come.  We thought Murray practiced very well leading up to The Open, and had the pleasure of watching him from the first row in a session against David Ferrer in which he hit the ball as hard as anyone we’ve seen hit it, leaving the string marks on the ball as pictured above.  Murray has a lot of power when he hits his shots with momentum, and a lot of touch when he sheds that trademark temerity and approaches the net.  Now, he uses those talents.  Then there’s Murray’s bronze medal mixed doubles partner, Laura Robson, who on Sunday was nearly the first British woman to take home hardware since Virginia Wade did 30-something years ago.  We remember Robson as a 13 and 14 year old prodigy on the outer courts of SW-19, thinking about the enormous pressure on her, the whole pride of Britain thing.  And we didn’t see all that many gains for almost 5 years.  But now, we see a kid who at 18 is on target to make the top 10 on the soon side.  Robson took out Clijsters at Flushing in round 2, and we get the notion that Clijsters was also playing her emotions in that spot, her final USO match, final career match and whatnot.  But nobody is rooting for Robson there so it isn’t a great spot for the kid either.  Frankly, a lot about Robson reminds us of Clijsters.  The backhand, for one, is a real weapon.  She steps in and rips that 2-hander with control.  But Robson, at 5’11, has a great serve and seems like one of the best candidates in the women’s game right now to hold her serve consistently.  Then there’s that big lefty forehand that she can crush flat or corkscrew with topspin, a shot that smaller players will have a lot of trouble with when it gets up high.  And Robson moves forward with ease, goes side to side and defends gracefully, and keeps her composure far beyond that of a normal 18 year old, even in tennis.

Robson has climbed some 250 spots in the last two years since she began training at the Mouratoglou academy in Paris.  BTW, Mouratoglou also coaches Dimitrov, who has made decent strides since beginning that partnership, and is also a recent addition to Serena Williams coaching team, as well as being linked romantically to Lady S.  Since joining forces with Williams, Serena has won Wimbledon, Olympic gold, and the US Open.

Last week, Robson had a great run in Guangzhou at a 250 level event, defeating Zheng Jie (#22), Shuai Peng (#47), and Sorana Cirstea (#30) on her way to a final berth in which she almost came from 6-3, 5-3 down to defeat then world #53, Su-Wei Hsieh.  Eventually she lost to Hsieh 6-4 in the 3rd, but it was still a banner week for young Robson.  Hsieh is a tricky two hander who had handled Robson in their previous meeting, 7-6, 6-4.  Hsieh is a mature 26 year old, who went up to world #39 with Sunday’s win.  Robson, prior to that match, talked about how hard Hsieh was to read and how difficult it is to get a rhythm playing against her.

Obviously Robson is finding a way to problem solve on the court.  After the stunning upset of Clijsters at Flushing, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for her to let down in round 3 against Li Na.  When she was up a set and a break on Li and then lost the break and a 2nd set breaker, no one in the house was expecting her to pull out the win.  That win, sending Robson to her 1st round of 16 as a pro, was hard fought and well won, and marked her taking out two major champions in successive matches.

Robson, who started the year at 2-8 and did not get a win on the main tour until Miami at the end of March, is now 29-23, and in looking over the players above her, we see that she is poised to make a big move up the rankings this fall.

42    42    Arvidsson, Sofia    16/02/84    SWE    1355    25
43    41    Wozniak, Aleksandra    07/09/87    CAN    1350    23
44    44    Pironkova, Tsvetana    13/09/87    BUL    1325    22
45    48    Cornet, Alize    22/01/90    FRA    1325    27
46    47    Peng, Shuai    08/01/86    CHN    1315    23
47    46    Niculescu, Monica    25/09/87    ROU    1306    21
48    45    Suarez Navarro, Carla    03/09/88    ESP    1281    26
49    49    Halep, Simona    27/09/91    ROU    1225    22
50    51    Cetkovska, Petra    08/02/85    CZE    1215    20
51    50    Hradecka, Lucie    21/05/85    CZE    1199    21
52    52    Tatishvili, Anna    03/02/90    GEO    1162    30
53    43    Scheepers, Chanelle    13/03/84    RSA    1120    26
54    54    Govortsova, Olga    23/08/88    BLR    1120    26
55    55    Kuznetsova, Svetlana    27/06/85    RUS    1082    15
56    58    Jovanovski, Bojana    31/12/91    SRB    1080    29
57    74    Robson, Laura    21/01/94    GBR    1073    26

http://www.wtatennis.com/page/RankingsSingles/0,,12781~0~1~100,00.html

We are not impressed with anyone on that list above, except for Robson.  We’d say there are some players ripe to be overtaken right up to Wozniacki at number 11, and we think Robson can leap frog a lot of these ladies with a strong end to the year.  Spots 28-41 are all people Robson is going to be beating regularly, with the possible exception of Sloane Stephens, though that may be debatable.  And Robson has virtually no points to defend as she moves through the remainder of the outdoor hardcourt season and then goes indoors, where she is obviously suited to the speed of play.

We were never big Murray fans and we think you know that to be the case.  Still, we’ve been on Murray as a big time threat, except for at Roland Garros, since he brought Lendl aboard.  Robson is a lot easier to like than Murray.  No tantrums.  No hype outside of the Isles.  And no maddeningly passive strategies, though Murray, especially with Lendl as his coach, has better figured out when the time is to let it rip.  But of all the young women we watched this summer, Robson did the most to impress.  Tough break drawing Schiavone in the 1st round at Wimbledon, but we’d bet the house she’d win the rematch on grass, where she has practiced a lot, as she is already a linchpin of her nation’s Fed Cup team.

Simply put, if you are a weak minded female, or one with no weapons, then Robson will have your ranking soon enough.  Between Murray and Robson, Britain is poised for their best run in tennis since the pre-modern era.

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The much anticipated Milos Raonic (above) versus Rafael Nadal third round dream matchup was shattered today when Raonic injured his back as he fell in pursuit of the ball, in the first set against Gilles Muller of Luxembourg.  Raonic was forced to retire up 3-2 in the first set, and with a break of service in his pocket.  Theoretically, Raonic’s game should be feared on grass, but the young Canadian, in actuality, hasn’t had much practice.  A great shame.  Nadal/Raonic would have been one of the premiere matchups of the tournament and one of the most interesting matches of the year.  Hopefully, the kid gets his back right in time for the American hardcourt season, and we’d expect him to be much better when he returns to SW-19 next year.

How about Venus Williams having to fight for her life against an old lady?  Date-Krumm, at around 41, played some old school tennis, especially in the clutch, winning 61% of the points on second balls and coming to the net a stout 54 times.  The Japanese woman had to work hard for every point, only hit one ace in 2 hours and 56 minutes, and truly made Venus earn it.  And now we worry about Venus having played too much tennis so far, going into her 3rd round matchup with Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, who, after “upsetting” Jelena Jankovic in round 1, came back strong today, stomping Monica Niculescu, 6-3, 6-0

The Williams sisters are paying the price for returning from injury on a specialty surface.  MJMS has never beaten Venus, but she is playing great, and is on her best surface.  The 3rd round matchup will be a rematch of their 3rd round match from 2008 which Venus won 6-1, 7-5.  We have a heavy rooting interest in Venus, obviously, and we’d hate to see her lose in this spot. 

On the men’s side, Stanislas Wawrinka surprisingly fell in straights to Simon Bolleli.  Who knew the Italians could play so well on grass?  What a season they’ve had on grass on both the men’s and women’s side.  Robin Haase, a good grass courter from the Netherlands upset Fernando Verdasco, who was ripe for the taking after his 4 hour battle on Monday with Radek Stepanek.  Dimitry Tursunov finished off his first round match and his opponent, Ernests Gulbis, who is flat under-achieving, truth be told.  Tursunov took the last 2 sets in tie-breakers, the first of which he took fourteen points to twelve.  And we were obviously glad to see one handers Richard Gasquet and Grigor Dimitrov pull through.  Dimitrov will have to turn it around quickly, because he has Tsonga bright and early.  Here are those, and some other interesting lines for day 4:

Dimitrov:  + 450

Tsonga:  – 800

_____________________________

Ferrer:  – 750

Harrison:  + 425

_________________________

Almagro:  + 165

Isner:  – 225

______________________________

Soderling:  – 350

Hewitt:  + 225

____________________________

Troicki:  – 350

Lu:  + 225

…….

We are happy to take our chances on some of the younger guys like Harrison and Dimitrov tomorrow, especially at these prices.  Isner/Almagro is a tough call.  We wouldn’t touch it.  Soderling/Hewitt should be a great spectacle, and both players were pushed in round one.  Not listed above, but interestingly enough, young Aussie Bernard Tomic is a (-225) favorite to advance versus Igor Andreev.  We wouldn’t touch that either.  But we are all over Yen-Hsun Lu, who, recall, upset Andy Roddick in the round of 16 last year.  Lu is a very tough out, and we aren’t sure about Troicki on grass.

Anderson:  + 2500

Djokovic:  – 10000

Anderson is a 6’7, mobile, bomb serving stick.  The Djoker can’t be in love with this draw card.  We like Anderson’s line.  Would you rather bet 10000 units to win a hundred, or bet a hundred to win 2500?  And for the ladies:

Wozniacki:  – 3000

Razzano:  + 1200

_____________________________

Robson:  + 1400

Sharapova:  – 4000 

___________________________

Zheng:  – 225

Doi:  + 165

_______________________

Bartoli:  – 3000

Dominguez Lino:  + 1200

______________________________

Halep:  + 700

Serena:  – 1500

……

How is anyone comfortable laying thousands on any of these favorites?  It would be a nice story if Robson won, and Sharapova’s in fine form, but, it’s not minus 4000 form.  Take a flyer.  Wozniacki?  Upset waiting to happen.  Serena?  Probably wins, but that’s bad betting at negative 15.  And we threw Moi/Zheng in there, primarily because we called Moi over Mattek-Sands, in what was one of the worst lines we have ever seen in round 1.

Na Li:  – 160

Sabine Lisicki:  + 120

And why is Li Na getting so little respect?  We think it backs up our opinion of the women’s game nicely, and clay court tennis for that matter, with her being the current French champ, but we also think she’s a good bet in this spot.  Stick with the mixed channels for all the action.

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Impressive young American Ryan Harrison, who once again bulled his way through qualifying, with Pistol Pete Sampras (above).

There are some very interesting matchups, as well as odds, for Day 2’s action at The Championships.  Take a look at the odds and our thoughts, below:

Ivan Dodig:  – 275

Ryan Harrison (USA):  + 185

______________________________

Alexander Dolgopolov:  – 400

Fernando Gonzalez:  + 250

________________________________

Grigor Dimitrov:  – 225

Cedrik-Marcel Stebe:  + 165

_________________________________

Nicolas Almagro:  – 180

Jarkko Nieminen:  + 130

_________________________________

John Isner:  – 250

Nicolas Mahut:  + 175

______________________________

Kei Nishikori:  – 110

Lleyton Hewitt:  – 130

_______________________________

Bernard Tomic:  – 180

Nikolay Davydenko:  + 130

________________________________

Ernests Gulbis:  + 175

Dimitry Tursunov:  – 250

________________________________

Frank Dancevic:  – 500

Ricardo Mello:  + 300

____________________________

Andreas Seppi:  – 225

Albert Montanes:  + 165

_____________________________

Wozniacki:  – 5000

Parra Santonja:  + 1500

_______________________________

Medina Garrigues:  + 165

Goerges:  – 225

____________________________________

Kerber:  – 200

Robson:  + 150

_______________________________

Falconi:  – 175

Dubois:  + 125

____________________________

Jankovic:  – 300

Martinez-Sanchez:  + 200

………..

We didn’t know much about Ivan Dodig, to be honest, until we saw him play a few very sensible grass court matches last week.  Still, we see young Texan Ryan Harrison as a special player to be, and we like his recent work, most notably, a big win against a very hot Milos Raonic at Indian Wells.  We’d take Harrison, who is looking for his 1st win on European grass (he had a couple of wins in Rhode Island last July).  We like Gonzo as a big underdog.  Dolgopolov has underwhelmed on specialty surafaces, and though it’s hard to know how well Gonzo has healed from his knee problems, he is a big time player with an immnse serve and forhand when right.  you know we love our one hander Grigor Dimitrov, especially in this matchup with a relative unknown.  Dimitrov has progressed very well in the last year, and a win tomorrow would be a nice step for him.  Giant John and Mahut set to rumble again.  Mahut is a kid we just love because he has a great attitude, great hands, and plays the right way.  But we’ll take Isner.  Neither guy has much of a return game, which hurts Mahut more against the 6’9 ace machine.  Japan’s finest, Kei Nishikori, against former champ Lleyton Hewitt…hard to tell how right Hewitt is, but he’s a fighter.  Keep that in mind.  Welcome back to high level tennis for Dimitry Tursunov, who had 3 major ankle surgeries in the last 2 years.  Against Gulbis, we should see some giant groundstrokes, and not much holding back.  Would be a great win for either guy.  We have always loved 1-handed Canadian Frank Dancevic, a heavy favorite tomorrow.  Good luck to James Blake against Baggy…he’ll need it, and he desperately needs a win and some confidence. 

On the ladies side, we think Caesar’s is crazy to put such a ridiculous number on Caroline Wozniacki.  We’re taking APS and the plus 1500.  It girl, flavor of the month, talk of the villages, Julia Goerges, is such a slight favorite over AMG…can it be right?  Just another shining example of how weak the women’s game is.  We’d love to Laura Robson, the young Brit, come through.  American youngster Irina Falconi, who has perhaps played 1 or 2 good weeks of tennis is her young career, is favored tomorrow.  We’re skeptical.  We love Martinez Sanchez, probably the best lady Spaniard on grass, and think she will give Jankovic, whom we despise for her gutless, hack style, much trouble.  And though not listed above, we like Radek Stepanek a lot at (+ 150) for an upset special over Cahill’s special boy, Fernando Verdasco.

Nice parlay opportunities tomorrow with the dogs.  If you want to get crazy, go Parra Santonja, Harrison, Martinez-Sanchez, Verdasco, and Gonzo.  A 5 unit wager on that combo would pay out 5,985 units should the stars align.  And please remember that we like certain bets, but don’t necessarily believe they will come in.  That’s why it’s gambling, kids.  May as well try to win big if you are going to play.

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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.

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/giant-john-isner-wins-longest-match-in-tennis-history-in-1st-round-wimbledon/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/marathon-man-mahut-returns-to-play-doubles-after-world-record-longest-singles-match/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/06/25/marathon-record-man-isner-falls-easily-in-2nd-round-wimbledon/

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

World #58, American Bethanie Mattek-Sands (above).

With an impressive win yesterday over Italian female singles French Open Champion Francesca Schiavone, 6-4, 6-4, a day after a gritty, veteran win over French junior girls Champion Kristina Mladenovic of France, the United States is sitting pretty in its bid for 9th Hopman Cup finals appearances in Hyundai Hopman Cup XXIII.  John Isner, American giant and world #19, hasn’t done so badly himself, scoring tight wins over Wimbledon rival Nicolas Mahut, and yesterday, over Potito Starace of Italy, 7-6, 4-6, 6-4.  Isner showed much grit, as he was outplayed by the crafty Italian for much of the match, and gutted out 2 breaks while down 3-1 in the third, taking 5 of the last 6 games for the win.

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Though the Americans dropped the mixed component last night to the Italian team 6-7 (5), 6-2, 7-6 (3) in a very entertaining match–how wild is it to watch Francesca Schiavone returning John Isner’s serve–it was the first match they have lost in Perth, and sit atop group B with 2 team wins, a 5 and 1 match record, an impressive set record of 11-5.  Tonight the Americans can clinch a finals berth, even if they are swept in all 3 matches by the British team of Andy Murray and Laura Robson, who are already eliminated from finals consideration.  The Americans will make the final, it seems, as long as the Italians who now sit with 3 match wins, do not have a total higher than the US, who currently sit at 5 wins.  An equal number of match wins and group wins for America and Italy would see the Americans play for the title since America defeated Italy head to head.

Winning a 6th Hopman Cup will be a tall order for the Americans though, who are likely to face the ace Serbian squad of world #3 Novak Djokovic, and former French champ and world #1 Ana Ivanovic, yet to lose a match of any sort between them so far at this year’s Hopman Cup.  Should the Serbs lose out to Belgium in all 3 of their matches in session 9, the United States or less likely, Italy, would face Belgium, led by Justine Henin, in the final on January 8th, 2011.

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In pretty big but separate women’s tennis development in Brisbane, it would seem that Jarmila Groth’s upset route over countrywoman Sam Stosur will have perhaps a dramatic affect on the women’s draw in Melbourne.  It was announced today that Stosur’s 6-2, 6-4 loss to Groth has dislodged her from the 4th seed at the Australian Open, and that American Venus Williams had risen from what would have been the 5th seed to the 4 seed due to the Groth victory.

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 Tune in Thursday evening to TTC for more live Hopman Cup action.

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

The Isner/Mahut handshake from Perth, Australia last night at the prestigious Hopman Cup (above).

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With 6 sessions currently played at one of our absolute favorite non majors–in fact, it’s not even a tournament but technically an exhibition–the United States has acquitted itself quite admirably in its one session so far, taking both its male and female cotests, as well as the mixed doubles, behind the main event rematch from Wimbledon, #19 John Isner versus throwback serve and volley player Nicolas Mahut.  Isner once again came out on top, though this time he needed less than 2 hours, to take Mahut 6-3, 7-6 (5), using the blueprint for victory left by the gods, an unbreakabe serve and pass or be passed tennis.

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Isner, on the strength of 2 first set breaks, cruised to a an easy lead by the scoreboard, but the high pressure game of Mahut saw Isner earn those breaks on the strength of the shot he is least comfortable hitting–the backhand pass.  Mahut, who gets every drop of talent out of his lanky frame, and seems to always play well on grass where there is still so much value placed on net play because you don’t always get the waist high bounce to crank a perfect groundstroke. He stuck to the strategy on the forgiving Plexicushion surface, engineered by the California company who also builds the faster Decoturf for the US Open, which is rated somewhere between the US Open and Wimbledon in terms of speed, and will give topspin a fairly high bounce like on clay, but sees slice remain very low, while allowing big servers to bang lightning quick flat serves (see Isner’s  upset demolition of Monfils at the Australian).  Mahut served big in the 2nd set, was not broken, and got in behind literally everything he could, causing the match to come down to a few shots here and there in the 2nd set tie-breaker.  Not a few points.  A few shots.

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Once again, we are so so impressed with the Hopman Cup, to its traditional but unorthodox in the modern sense inclusion of the sport of mixed doubles, to the very interesting players selected every year, and the unique team/nation aspect that is really only seen in Davis and Fed Cup, as well as the Olympics, which does a horrible job promoting tennis, if you ask us.  Hopman Cup–an homage to legendary Australian coach and Davis Cup Captain Harry Hopman (who also moved to New York and had a legendary roster of pupils including John McEnroe, Mary Carillo, Patrick McEnroe, and Peter Fleming)–is the only event where we get a glimpse at mixed doubles, and better even than the majors because the mixed is featured and the championship often comes down to mixed doubles.

This year, the Cup features an American team of Isner and Bethanie Mattek-Sands (a replacement for Hopman Cup ace Serena Williams), and BMS did her part in the singles and with Isner.  BMS handled French 17 year old Kristina Mladenovich, clearly a big time talent who was another superb selection for the French Hopman squad.  Mladenovich, a banger with huge groundstrokes, is someone we’ve been interested to see as the top female junior player in the world who won the Girls Singles Title at Roland Garros in 2010.  The Ladies French Open Champion, Francesca Schiavone, also is competing at Hopman Cup for Italy, and scored a win in singles over intriguing British teen Laura Robson and mixed with Potito Starace, as Italy handed a defeat in session 3 to Great Britain, which probably seemed unlikely on paper because the Brits boast wolrd #4 Andy Murray.

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Back to Bethanie, who took 1 hour and 56 minutes to take out Mladenovic, and dropped the 1st set before taking the match 3-6, 6-3, 6-1.  BMS clearly needed a minute to figure out the 17 year old ball striker, but used a mix of variety, varied pace, net play, and 2 hand backhands which she took so early and flawlessy redirected the pace already there to show Mladenovic that she is in the big leagues this week.  In a loaded section, the Americans already have a 3-0 win over France, with a matchup tomorrow night against Italy looming, and another with Britain still to come.  As for the other section, it is also stocked with prime time talent and the kind of players you’d pay to see.  The Belgian team features the beautiful game of former Australian and US Open champ Justine Henin (the 2nd impressive 1 handed female on display here), who who was a finalist early in her comeback at Melbourne last year, and who is a 4 time French champ, along with lefty youngster Ruben Bemelmans, another guy we have wanted to see but would not have save for this event.  The Australians feature two-time major champ and former #1 Lleyton Hewitt, and the Serbians, already up 2 sessions, feature former Australian Champ Novak Djokovic, and former French champ Ana Ivanovic, finally returning to top form after a real struggle in 2010.

As far as Isner goes, we’d have to disagree with John McEnroe, who came out in favor of a 5th set tie-breaker at Wimbledon, after Mahut/Inser because he says such a match destroyed both players’ chances and would debilitate the rest of their seasons.  It may be so, but that’s the game, and two players who aren’t going to win the tournament or any players for that matter, are not bigger than the tournament, and an aspect of it which so greatly lends to the event’s old world mystique.  And since Isner was in the finals in Atlanta a few weeks later, and has remained in the top 20 despite the draining but historic ad wildly entertaining Wimbledon match, we’d venture to say the match has done nothing but help both players.

Hopman Cup from Perth has always retained that old world feel, even on perhaps the most beautiful, modern, and technically sound courts anywhere, even if they are not the fastest (our preference).  We’ll be watching intently all week as The Tennis Channel brings us the action live, and we’ll be reveling in every second, as the commentary of the great Fred Stolle brings us back to our childhood.  Even if we do have to look at the wrinkled up, ancient face of Lucy Hopman from time to time.

In other tennis news, Nadal and Federer won easily today in Doha, and Robin Soderling took out impressive American teen Ryan Harrison in straights in Brisbane 6-2, 6-4.

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Tune in to TTC tonight.

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