Michael Russell

We were very lucky to sit front row at the US Open yesterday for American hopeful Sloane Stephens (serving above) and Reka-Luca Jani of Hungary.  From everything we saw prior, Sloane Stephens looked to us to be if not the best, then the 2nd best American tennis prospect in the land, and her 6-2 lead after one set seemed to bear that out.  And then the middle set and a half came.  Though the 18 year old Stephens gutted out the victory by winning a break of serve while Jani was serving for the match, and although she trailed 3-2 in the deciding breaker and then reeled off the last 5 points, we’d rather be hard on her than easy.  Let’s be real.  Is Stephens to be lauded for beating a 5’4 girl 2 years older than her who also never won a match at a major (or even competed in one before yesterday) and who is ranked about 225th in the world?

Stephens looked great early on.  She was so quick around the court, stalking the baseline, and it seemed like Jani could not hit an out and out winner.  Stephens was getting to everything.  The first set came and went and Jani looked headed for home.  In the 2nd set, Stephens looked tight, went down a break, and got no traction whatsoever on Jani’s service games.  She lost the set 6-3, and frankly, she looked like she was a junior again.  A lot of credit goes to Jani for the turn around.  Stephens has a laser beam forehand, not a lot of spin, that she gets on top of and that’s clearly her kill shot.  Jani has tactics, and variety, and against a one dimensional player, it was almost enough.

On American hards, Stephens has no business losing to a player like this, despite her limitations, to this point.  Did irk us that she hit only 3 volleys and blew an easy overhead?  Totally.  And by the way, if you are reading the match stats that counted her as 11 for 20 on her approaches, a poor percentage indeed, you might want to take more seriously the percentage than the credited approaches because she was moored to the baseline and we have good reason to question that stat.  Stephens is uncomfortable anywhere inside the tennis court.  Jani’s best play all night was the drop shot, which was a horrible sitting duck most of the time, but since Stephens can only go side to side and hates taking her hand off the racquet, just about every dropper hit to her backhand worked out for Jani, even when the droppers made the service line.

It’s not like Jani is Roger Federer.  She employed a little topspin, a lot of short balls, some approaches and some slice.  Stephens bashed flat forehands and hit looping backhands.  We can’t recall her hitting one slice backhand or taking her hand off the racquet, even for a lunge, once.  And she did not go for any winners on the backhand side.  It’s no way to win a match and at about the 1:40 mark, it looked like it had lost her the match, down a break at 4-5 in the 3rd.  Stephens did have a pretty live first serve, and she is well conditioned, and when doubt crept in for Jani in that 10th game, Stephens picked it up.  She had to or she was going home.  And she had the crowd, though there was a small but hardened Hungarian contingent annoyingly yelling out calls and shushing the rest of us, who we were happy to see, get shushed in the end.

I was preparing some comments to heckle Stephens with, or rather, constructive criticism, to nail her with if she lost.  I was gonna yell, “No variety Stephens!”  That would have been putting it kindly.  She’s only 18 and she has time to get comfortable with her secondary shots and develop more tennis sense and work on her backhand.  But still, I was not that impressed.

We’ve been away.  Now we’re back.  Odds for today’s tennis out at Flushing:

12:30 PM EST

__ __ __

Juan Martin Del Potro:  – 10000

Filippo Volandri:  + 2500


Rui Machado:  + 600

Robin Haase:  – 1200


Denis Istomin:  – 175

Ryan Sweeting:  + 125


Shuai Peng:  – 400

Tsvetana Pironkova:  + 250

__ __ __

1:00 PM EST

__ __ __

Alex Bogomolov:  – 1200

Steve Johnson:  + 600


Somdev Devvarman:  + 2500

Andy Murray:  – 10000


Marion Bartoli:  – 225

Christina McHale:  + 165

__ __ __

2:00 PM EST

__ __ __

Ricardo Mello:  + 1000

Gilles Simon:  – 2500

__ __ __

2:30 PM EST

__ __ __

Robby Ginepri:  – 180

Joao Souza:  + 130


Nadia Petrova:  – 300

Polona Hercog:  + 200


Coco Vandeweghe:  + 700

Sam Stosur:  – 1500

__ __ __

3:00 PM EST

__ __ __

Dominika Cibulkova:  – 400

Irina Falconi:  + 250


Venus Williams:  + 110

Sabine Lisicki:  – 150

__ __ __

4:00 PM EST

__ __ __

Jack Sock:  + 185

Marc Gicquel:  – 275


Yanina Wickmayer:  – 375

Alla Kudryatseva:  + 235

__ __ __

4:30 PM EST

__ __ __

Angelique Kerber:  + 550

Agnieszka Radwanska:  – 1000


Flavia Pennetta:  – 400

Romina Oprandi:  + 250

__ __ __

5:00 PM EST

__ __ __

Marcos Baghdatis:  + 200

John Isner:  – 300

__ __ __

7:00 PM EST

__ __ __

Andy Roddick:  – 1500

Michael Russell:  + 700

__ __ __

9:00 PM EST

__ __ __

Anastasiya Yakimova:  + 1200

Maria Sharapova:  – 3000


A couple of things to mention here.  How often does Venus get a plus next to her name?  Nightmare matchup for Lisicki.  We’d like to see ugly 2-handers, Peng and Bartoli, out of here.  Especially Bartoli, facing young Jersey girl Christina McHale.  Angelique Kerber defeated our little darling, Lauren Davis.  We could see her being a nice bet against Radwanska who seems to be an awfully big favorite.  Who’s betting 1000 to win 100 on a Radwanska girl?  We’d like to think Coco and Jack have a shot today.  Especially Sock, against the very ancient Gicquel.  We are liking Hercoq against the burly Petrova, especially after she steamrolled Mattek-Sands, 1 and 3.  We like Falconi over Cibulkova, thinking she’s played well and that it’s a great matchup for her.

Romina Oprandi in action after predictably taking out Oudin (does she have to get bageled in every loss?).  Isner-Baghdatis might be the best match of the day.  We like Steve Johnson, USC’s NCAA champ, against Bogomolov, who we have never seen as – 1200 against anyone, and maybe never even seen as a favorite. 

Big day for USA potentially.  And Madison Keys could have gotten us off very well by finishing off Lucie Safarova.  Not to be, once again showing it takes more than defense to win at this level.

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

Jeremy Chardy:  – 180

Grigor Dimitrov (above):  + 130


Elena Baltacha:  + 175

Sloane Stephens:  – 250


Rafael Nadal:  – 10000

John Isner:  + 2500


Sam Querrey:  + 175

Philipp Kohlschreiber:  – 250


Andreas Haider-Mauer:  – 120

Ryan Sweeting: – 120


Juan Ignacio Chela:  – 1500

Tim Smyczek:  + 700


Gilles Simon:  – 2000

Michael Russell:  + 800


Dominika Cibulkova:  – 600

Vania King:  + 350


It looks like it’s going to be sunny, high 70’s in Paris tomorrow, and that could bode well for John Isner, who you won’t see as such a big underdog too often.  He should get traction on his serve in the warm weather, making for possibly an interesting match.

Grigor Dimitrov, the phenomenally talented one handed Bulgarian, has a real chance here against Chardy, who has seemed ro regressed in the last two years.  Dimitrov already has his ranking up to about 60, and winning a few rounds would get him on his way to getting right in to smaller events.

You know we love Sloane Stephens.  Go girl!  Wouldn’t be surprised if Sweeting won and Querrey lost.

Hit up the action on the mixed channels.

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

Roger Federer took the courts for the first time, officially, with Paul Annacone in the perch, as Federer defeated Juan Ignacio Chela, 7-6, (9-7), 6-3 tonight in the first round of the Rogers Cup, which is being played in Toronto this year.  Nowhere to be seen in the players box was Swiss Davis Cup Captain Severin Luthi, who has been Roger’s official coach until, well, it would seem the last few weeks.  But then when we hear Koenig and Adler tell it tonight during the match on TTC, it didn’t sound like a trial coaching run for Paul Annacone.  You heard that Roger has always had a friendly relationship with Annacone because he was always friendly with Sampras and Henman, and that Roger had wanted to retain Annacone for some time, and could not because of Annacone’s duties for the LTA (England’s Lawn Tennis Association).  Annacone was a coach for the British program, the way Higueras is a coach for the American program, and as Annacone worked too, during a brief period between his 13th major, when Sampras fired him, before hiring him back to win major # 14.


Roger said that he has been talking to Annacone for a “while” and that he would have hired him sooner if he could have.  Koening and Adler remarked on Annacone’s captaincy of the British Davis Cup Team, where he had a chance to coach Andy Murray, that the team had so little talent that Annacone had to be “ecstatic” to be working at the top level of the men’s game.  As for his imprint on Roger so far, only a few points seem to have had that Annacone stamp.  Roger attacked the net while returning serve and punched a volley for a winner to set up a break mid first set, and on another point, Roger got to net and had to make two volleys, because the first wasn’t good enough.  He popped up a forehand volley a little, and then had to lunge and made a great reflex volley for the winner.  Those points seemed like they were  Annacone inspired.

Annacone talking to the British Davis Cup team (above) at a practice on the grounds of Wimbledon.

Roger looked like Roger, in his new pink and grey Nike threads.  He made a bunch of errors, but the serve looked good (9 aces), and he dictated, on his way to 8 break chances and three conversions, and a 1 hour and 21 minute victory.  It’s a good start to the Federer/Anacone era, and Paul looked pretty comfortable sitting in Luthi’s spot next to Mirka, by the way.  Good likelihood that Fed gets Nicolas Almagro in the next round, who impressively bested Richard Gasquet in late July to take the title in Gstaad, in a matchup of one handers on red clay. 


8th seed Andy Roddick looks like he might see his Wimbledon conqueror, Yen Hsun Lu when he takes the court in Toronto for the first time.  Roddick has fallen outside of the top 10, and finds himself outside the top 10 for the first time since early in 2003.  A bad development for American tennis, as we have no players in the top ten for the first time since 1973.  Justin Gimesltob called Roddick’s slide a “glitch” in the rankings system, and said that he feels roddick will be in the top ten for a long time to come.  Life was cruel to Sam Querrey, as the American, one week removed from his defense of his Farmers Classic title.  Querrey got bounced in the first round by Janko Tipsarevic, who he had narrowly beaten, from down 5-1 in a 3rd set breaker, just 4 days earlier in LA.  Querrey is off to a good start in Canada, having beaten American Michael Russell earlier this evening, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.  He faces South African shot making giant Kevin Anderson in the next round, in an interesting rematch of Querrey’s first ever final, when he took Anderson for the title in 3 sets. 



Mardy Fish, who won the doubles title in Washington paired with Mark Knowles–no small feat–moved up one place in the rankings to world # 34.  Donald Young slides back to world # 104, and James Blake moves “up” to # 108.  Terrible Taylor D. checks in at # 81, and Michael Russell, # 82–good positions for the hacks they are, though Dent shows us somethingby coming to the net so much.



Speaking of the rankings, would you look at World # 45, David Nalbandian (above), who shot up after an impressive week in which he lost one set, and made short shrift of both Marin Cilic and Marcos Baghdatis in the semis and finals.  Let me give you the lowdown on Nalbandian.  He’s healthy, he looks great–like a guy who can beat anyone.  And when he’s healthy and conditioned, as he is now, he is going to be absolute hell in a best of 3.  But Nalbandian’s game is all about the pounding.  He’s a power mover.  It shouldn’t take too long before the pounding wears him out to where he’s playing long matches, which isn’t good for him.  In a good tennis match, he took out David Ferrer in 3 sets tonight, hard fought, and now Ferrer leads the head to head 6 to 5.  We’d look for Nalbandian to make a good showing in Montrel and Cincinnati, before petering out at The Open.  But it’s good to have him back nontheless.

In the women’s game, life was cruel for San Diego champion, Svetlana Kuznetsova, who had to get across country and face Maria Sharapova in the first round in Cincy, who took her out, 6-4, 1-6, 6-2.  Sharapova, now popping the serve again, is not who you want to face right now on the women’s side.  And we are very happy tonight for Christina McHale (above), who got a wildcard and made the best of it by beating Nadia Petrova today, 7-6 (4), 5-3 ret.  It would be nice to see McHale get on a roll this month before The Open.

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

Mardy Fish (above), the Atlanta and Newport champion (above).

Mardy Fish, ranked around world # 90 in May, has found himself back inside the top 40, landing at # 35 after winning two straight events and making the finals of 3 out of his last 4 events.





This week, Fish is the fourth ranked American male this week, improving 14 spots–the most of any American in the top 100.  Ahead of Fish this week is top ranked American and good Fish friend, Andy Roddick, who remains at world # 9, John Isner, who lost to Fish in yesterday’s final, at world # 19, and Sam Querrey, at world # 20.  Querrey is back in action this week at the Farmer’s Classic in LA.  Keep in mind that Big Sam Q had a great Olympus Series last year and won the US Open Series.  He should be tough this week in front of the hometown fans.












The next highest riser in this week’s rankings for America after Fish was Taylor Dent, up to world # 84 to world # 94 with his quarter-final loss to Fish in Atlanta.


Michael Russell, another quarter-finalist in Atlanta, is up 8 spots from world # 89 to world # 81.  Donald young finds himself up 6 spots, and back in the top 100, sitting at # 99.  Go DY!

Tommy Haas, now an American citizen, and still recovering from injury, slid one position back to # 107.  Haas dates actress Sara Foster.  James Blake slipped 2 positions to # 117, and Robby Ginepri fell a precipitous 43 ranking spots to world # 118.

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

American and world # 9, Andy Roddick (above), who will take on Xavier Malisse in the quarter-finals today at the inaugural Atlanta Hardcourt Tennis Championships.

Andy Roddick will join Americans # 49 Mardy Fish, # 94 Taylor Dent, # 89 Michael Russell, and world # 19, Giant John Isner in action that will be televised in America by ESPN2.  The most intriguing matchup after Roddick-Malisse, is probably Fish-Dent, where a good showing from Mardy could mean he takes back to back tournaments on different surfaces–an enormous accomplishment and a nice confidence boost heading toward The Open.  Fish (below) moved up to world # 49 this week with his win in Newport on grass, and hardcourts are by far his best surface.  Fish should be a huge favorite today over Taylor Dent.

Everyone would expect John Isner’s big game to be way too much for scrappy American journeyman Michael Russell, who has only made one other quarter-final this year, one he lost to Sam Querrey in San Jose.  As for Sam, good move on his part to sit this one out.  Querrey has seemed to have low energy at the US Open, which is the surface he is most likely to succeed on.  He has played a lot of tennis and shouldn’t play too many non mandatory events leading up to the US Open. 

The Roddick-Malisse matchup is an interesting one because of Roddick’s weak play of late and because of the talented Malisse’s renaissance.  A win this week would hopefully get Roddick out of the doldrums he has been in. 

And for those who are interested, the team of Blake and Isner is still alive in the doubles draw.

–Crack (http://crackbillionair.wordpress)