Nikolay Davydenko


Australian prodigy Bernard Tomic (above), a colorful young player who seems to have a bit of Andre Agassi in him, blitzed Spaniard and world #31 Feliciano Lopez in two successive tie breakers, 7-4 and 7-3, and currently leads Lopez 7-6 (4), 7-6 (2), 4-3.  Tomic, at world #199, is giving away a lot of power to Lopez and yet, he has him on the ropes due to his defensive skills on the Plexicushion and overall smart play.  On several points in the match, Tomic has traded slice backhands with Lopez, who, for some reason is allowing Tomic to dictate with his foot speed and shot selection.  The pride of Australia has played the big points better, winning 2 of 3 break points, and by keeping the ball in play with only 17 unforced errors.

Tomic, who practiced with Nadal last year and was said to have frustrated him because he plays Rafa’s topspin well, similar to Davydenko or Agassi, who we mentioned earlier.  Tomic takes the ball early and uses his opponents pace against them.  Tomic/Rafa would be a wildly entertaining match, and we’re pulling for the kid and a chance to see that match on Saturday, even though we aren’t in love with Tomic as a sportsman.  Especially since he recently had an altercation with our favorite prodigy, the one handed backhand ripping super talent Grigor Dimitrov.

Tomic 4-3 on serve in the 3rd right now, and just saved 2 break points.  He’s impressing…Tomic just got the break in the 8th game of the set and served it out.  7-6 (4), 7-6 (3), 6-3 in fine form.

Crack (,

Isner and Mattek-Sands (above), champions at Hopman Cup in Perth.

Roger had a little trouble with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Doha semi, who seems to come to Australia and always play his best tennis.  Tsonga, a big man, really capitalizes on the two month break and is always at his best when he’s fresh.  Sure Roger won the first set easily, and had to take the second in a breaker 6-3, 7-6 (3), but Tsonga has the game to challenge Federer, though that challenge was only slight yesterday as Federer continues in fine form.  The great man was again barely challenged this morning in Federer/Davydenko XVII.  Davydenko, who dusted world #1 Rafael Nadal in straights Friday, got dusted by the great man for the 15th time in 17 encounters, 6-3, 6-4 in little over an hour.

And we’re gonna take a sec to toot our own horn here, because in last month’s piece about Roger and Venus, we mentioned the fact that a healthy Davydenko is a bad matchup for Rafa, and well, what we saw in our crystal ball came to pass some 6 or 7 days later.  But this is primarily about Roger, of course.  The great man takes his 67th ATP tournament victory in his 95th finals appearance.  Those numbers are a testament to Roger’s brilliance and consistency over time.  Federer has been serving lights out on the Plexicushion, only broken once so far in 42 service games leading up to the final.  Today Federer won a staggering 40/51 points on serve, and faced no break points.

This is not to say that Davydenko did not play well.  He played to a very high level, but could never mount an offensive against Rog, who we will repeat, appears in his finest form since 2006.  With more results in and more time to analyze, it would appear that Paul Annacone has focused on Roger’s serve, and impressed upon him the absolute necessity in holding serve.  We haven’t seen Federer throw in more than 2-3 bad service games since October, and he dominated Nadal on the strength of his serve, and agressive first strike tennis at the YEC in London to end the year.

Next stop for Fed is likely the Kooyong Classic, a well run Melbourne exo where Roger and a few other big names usually get 2 or 3 matches in.  Remember a few years back that Federer lost to Roddick at Kooyong, and then demolished him in the AO semi-final, as the great man obviously keeps a few tricks in the bag until he hits Rod Laver.  Andy Murray is also expected to show up at Kooyong, and it could be interesting to see Roger playing coy with the other Andy there.  Speaking of Murray, the lad completely out-classed Giant John Isner in the men’s portion of the final B tie at Hopman.  But thankfully, Bethanie Mattek-Sands had already clinched the Americans spot in the final with a trouncing of teen Laura Robson.  As for Isner, he only managed 2 paltry aces versus Murray, who set the tone in the match’s first game with an easy break of Isner’s serve.  The Isner serve, gigantic in terms of MPH, was no problem for the quick reflexes of Murray, who dialed in to Isner’s serve very easily, and on some returns, took the ball close to 2 meters inside the baseline and struck 1st ball return winners.  We aren’t quick to praise Murray who we despise for his passive style, but as Fred Stolle remarked, Murray delivered quite a wakeup call to Isner, and illustrated vividly the difference between world’s #4 and 19.  If Isner doesn’t play aggressive first strike tennis on the Plexicushion, which is a hard surface to hit through on, he has zero chance.  Murray moved the ball around, and the lumbering Isner was the one on the defensive.  Murray tired Isner out with side to side rallies, and executed several almost perfect drop shots that left Isner frozen in time.

In the end, no cause for alarm for the Americans, who faced Belgium unexpectedly in the final, because the group A leaders, Serbia, had to drop out of contention due to an aggravated stomach muscle suffered by Ana Ivanovic.  There are no injury replacements permitted in the Hopman Cup.  Though Henin gave quite a lesson to Mattek-Sands in the first match of the tie, clinically dispatching her, Isner shook off the loss to Murray quite nicely in defeating Belgian youngster Ruben Bemelmans.  As is often so fascinating with Hopman Cup, the tie came down to the mixed portion, where you have Giant John Isner serving to one of the greats, Justine Henin, giving away a foot and a half to the American.  Unlike Serena, who has carried the US to several Hopman Cup titles, the best female could not elevate her squad to victory this morning.  Isner and Mattek-Sands defeated the Belgian team, and we are very hopeful that they will remain paired and take a run at the mixed title in Melbourne, where the AO begins in 8 days.

In Brisbane this morning, Andy Roddick overcame a loose second set and a very powerful opponent with a big serve, South African 24 year old Kevin Anderson, who played his college ball at the University of Illinois in Champagne.  We have seen the poor returning Roddick have big difficulty with big servers, notably John Isner in the round of 16 at the USO, and of course Roger Federer.  Anderson served big, and kept Roddick off balance with his pace, which prevented Roddick from taking control at the net.  In the 3rd set, Roddick made an important adjustment, following slice backhands in, which travel slowly and give him the time to set his feet at net.  Good to see from Roddick, who doesn’t always have a strong plan B.  Roddick took out Anderson in 3 sets, and played the majority of the big points better than his opponent.  Roddick looks to be in great physical condition, and may have dropped a few pounds.  As the match wore on, he seemed like the guy better able to be at war, while fatigue seemed to creep in for the young Anderson.  Dandy Andy will take on Robin Soderling in the final tomorrow (Soderling easily straighted Radek Stepanek earlier), and we love Soderling’s game over the past few years, and figure he will be favored going in.  We’ll pull for Roddick, but we are figuring on Soderling having too much pace and being too aggressive for the safer Roddick to stay with.

By the way, our woman Brooklyn Decker was looking very casual next to Roddick’s ace coach, Larry Stefanki, in the player’s box.  We also well await the Decker/Jenni Mostrom matchup tomorrow morning.

Crack (,

Three super fine tennis champions (above).

At the 2010 U.S. Open, in watching Roger Federer cruise throughh 5 rounds without dropping a set and clinically dispatching Robin Soderling in gail force winds in the quarter-finals, and then to see him come out so flat for his super Saturday main event semi vs. Novak Djokovic, to blow 2 sets and several match points, I was struck with this Venus Williams sort of feeling.  Venus’ last major showing at a major was in the O9 Wimbledon final against “little’ sis.  She failed to capitalize on a 1st set business end break opportunity and she didn’t get another sniff.  Serena blitzed big sis in the breaker and 20 minutes later, instead of holding a 6th singles title of her own, she was watching little sis hoist her 4th.  Since, we’ve seen Venus play some flawless matches in majors, but she has been unable to put a complete fortknight together.  Venus made runs in Melbourne and Roland Garros in 2010, and of course, we wanted desperately to see her add both pieces to the trophy case.  We bought the hype hardcore on the red clay, especially, as Venus won an event on the dirt in the spring and played nearly flawlessly 2 weeks before Paris in Madrid, until she was upset in the final by Aravane Rezai.  The thing about Venus of late that we feared was beginning to apply to Roger was that looking good 1 day had absolutely no conceivable carry over effect.  Venus was barely taxed at RG, dropping no sets until being bounced by Petrova in straights in the round of 16.

In fairness to Rog, aside from his failings vs. the Djoker in the semis, the man had an outstanding Open, and the command performance vs. Soderling and another highlight reel tweener shot, with a routine 24,000 spectator standing O would attest to that.  Our opinion?  The great man suffered a big let down after battering Soderling in a highly anticipated rematch of the 2010 French quarterfinal which he lost.  After 23 straight major semis, and then 2 straight misses, we think that Roger was also a bit satisfied with returning to the final 4.  The great man’s concentration waned.  Still great, but not great enough to throw away sets and still win majors, as he proved at the prior Open in his finals loss to Juan Martin Del Potro.  In retrospect, we’ve been very hard on Federer this year.  Deservedly so.  Sure, he won a major, went to 2 other major quarter-finals and an Open semi, and had a year anyone not named Roger Federer would die for.  But he went from February to August without winning an event, lost gimmes to Montanes in Estoril and to Lleyton Hewitt at Halle, giving Hewitt his 1st win vs. Roger in about 8 years to boot–a more epic drought against the master than Roddick’s famous time in the desert.

And worse yet.  Roger, on his best surface at this stage of the game, left a 2nd consecutive US Open title on the table.  If you’re of a mind to think grass is Roger’s best surface, think again.  It was true in the midst of his run of 5 straight Wimbledon titles, but at this point, Roger is almost a hardcourt specialist.  He hasn’t won on clay or grass since July 09 and his last 6 titles have all been on hards.  Still worse than that: putrid counter pucher’s defensive tennis at the hands of Rafael Nadal has prevailed in the wake of Roger’s beautiful, elegant shot making gone MIA.

Let us be truthful here.  We are always pissed when Roger and Venus go down in majors.  Always.  Unless they win it, we feel they could have done better invariably.  With the way Roger ended his summer, we were very concerned that even with Paul Annacone in his corner, that his will was fading.  Then we watched vintage Federer circa 06 this fall, and we felt really good about his chances at the YEC in London.  Federer did not disappoint.  Straight set, easy wins vs. Murray, Soderling, Ferrer and Djokovic, and his 1st win over Nadal since June 09–in style at that–for his 5th YEC have us daydreaming about more than just Roger’s 17th major.  We are envisioning the scenario that sees Federer return to #1, and though it will be bitter sweet as an even bigger fan of Pistol Pete, breaking Sampras’ all time record for weeks at #1, we could stand to see it and regard it as one of the few records of note that Federer has not yet broken in the singles game.

The YEC means more to Federer than it does to the field.  Aside from his 4 YEC titles going in, there was only 1 other YEC title even floating around in this year’s 8 man field (Djokovic).  Usually Roger makes a very strong run at the YEC for the hardware.  Two years ago, the great man could hardly bend over and still gave his all in 2 marathon 3 setters vs. Murray.  In 2005, when the final was still best 3 out of 5 sets, Federer was rolling against Nalbandian, up 2 sets and cruising until hurting his calf.  Instead of retiring (see Djokovic and Nadal), Federer trudged on with greatly hampered mobility and eventually lost in 5 sets.  The win in 5 over a gimpy Roger represents Nalbandian’s greatest triumph to date, and prevented Roger from ending that year with the all-time best year end record ever, as he finished at 81-4 rather than 82-3, which would have topped John McEnroe’s record 1984.

But why so much optimism regarding Federer in 2011?  Well, the best in the land, the fairest by far, is once again playing like it.  When the year kicks off down under, Roger Federer will be looking for a 5th Australian crown and 17th major title.  He’ll be fresh and uber motivated, and who navigates the landscape better at majors?  Federer also tends to benefit, as does Murray, Djokovic and Soderling from the full time return of injured Nadal killers Del Potro and Davydenko.  Davydenko’s ability to get balls back throws the most prominent aspect of Nadal’s success right back at him, and his take-it-on-the-rise-while-crowding-the-baseline style means he can go from D to O very quickly, and is effective at turning Nadal’s pace against him.  Then there’s the next legitimate #1, Juan Martin Del Potro, who at 6’6 is able to take Nadal’s high bouncing topspin well within his strike zone.  Del Potro mauled Nadal in a laugher in the 09 Open semi, 2, 2, and 2.  Nadal, who does not play first strike tennis well, is left constantly on his heels by Del Potro’s immense serve and huge groundstrokes.  The return of Davydenko and Del Potro to major tennis means more challenges for Nadal through the draws, and at the very least a greater physical toll will be exacted.

Personally, we feel Nadal owes his US Open title and career slam to Del Potro’s wrist injury more than any other single factor.  Del Potro could also be the player best suited to take up the mantle on clay, his natural surface.  and Del Potro’s 135-140 MPH serves are not dampened much by the dirt.  After watching Rafa take just 3 out of 54 in the YEC final on Roger’s 1st serve, we again see Nadal’s return game against quality servers as a weakness.  The same way in which Nadal won 1 major in 09 and then “fell apart”, so did Roger in 2010, and so could again Nadal in 2011.  After Melbourne, Roger will be poised to gain points, as we are already pencilling him in for better results almost unilaterally across the tour.

Can Roger get back to #1?  He can if he keeps playing like he’s 24.  And what about Venus, our best lady, now thirty something?  Can she add an 8th singles major title in 2011?

It certainly does boggle the mind that Lady V would exit the Australian Open in the quarters at the hands of Na Li, in a match she led handily, and that after beating eventual RG champ Francesca Schiavone in Madrid, that she’d be blown off the court by a lumbering Petrova in France.  While we like Tsvetana Pironkova as a player and have admired her poise in big spots, she has no business beating Venus 6-3, 6-2 on Wimbledon lawns.  But the fact is, the women’s game is wide open.  Venus went to the semis at the USO–her last major–and came this close to taking out eventual champ Clijsters in a tough 3 setter when a win would have paved the way for singles US Open title number 3.

Venus went 38-7 last year, won 2 tournaments, made 2 other finals, and did not lose before the round of 16 in any event.  she also partnered with Lady S for French and Aussie major doubles titles, bringing her obscene majors total to 21 (7 singles, 12 doubles, 2 mixed).  Hearing her comments about the US team’s Fed Cup Finals loss to Italy (“I was too sick to watch”) and of her committment to Mary Joe Fernandez’s squad for 2011, makes me think that Venus is focused, and she realizes she is on the clock.

I used to frequent an awful trollfest of a tennis message board littered wall to wall with morons–you know the type.  Agassi and Nadal fanboys.  In 2006, their lack of collective genius came up with a thread before Wimbledon called “What’s wrong with Venus Williams?”  She only won the tournament.  My friends bumped the thread the next year, and she won it again.  And the next year. 

I imagine there’s a “What’s wrong with Roger?” thread too.  I also imagine them playing flawless tennis, and feel neither is that far removed from doing it again.

Crack (,

Roger Federer holding the hardware (above).

2010 United States Open Men’s Champion’s Odds (August 30th – September 12th)


(Y) Andy Murray: + 350 (wager 100 units to win 350 units plus initial wager)

(XY) Andy Roddick: + 1500

David Nalbandian: + 1000

Ernests Gulbis: + 8000

Fernando Gonzalez: + 15000

Gael Monfils: + 12500

John Isner: + 8000

(XY) Lleyton Hewitt: + 10000

Marin Cilic: + 6000

Nikolay Davydenko: + 4000

(Y) Novak Djokovic: + 1500

Rafael Nadal: + 225

Richard Gasquet: + 15000

Robin Soderling: + 1500

(XYZ) Roger Federer: + 200

Sam Querrey: + 5000

Tomas Berdych: + 2000

Field (Any Other Player): + 700

X — denotes past champion

Y — denotes past runner-up

Z — 5 time champion

Enjoy The Open!

Crack (,


World # 2 and 16 time major singles champion, Roger Federer, ran his career record versus world # 6, Nikolay Davydenko to 14-2 this evening with a 6-4, 7-5 victory in the quarter-finals of the Western and Southern Financial Group Masters in Cincinnati.  For Federer, it’s been an interesting week of inactivity.  Roger won his 2nd round contest against up and coming Uzbeki, world # 53 Denis Istomin, when the youngster retired with Federer up 5-2 in the 1st set.

Federer received a walkover in the 3rd round when his opponent, German one hander, Philipp Kohlschreiber was forced to withdraw due to injury, setting up a quarter-final showdown for Roger in which he’d have to face either Davydenko or Ferrer, the latter whom Roger is 10-0 against.  Since Davydenko outlasted Ferrer yesterday in a tight 3 sets, Federer had to go toe to toe with Davydenko, who has both of his career wins over Federer in the last year.  But Roger made fairly easy work of the would-be Austrian defector, banging 12 aces while winning 32/41 points on his first serve, and breaking Davydenko 3 times in 11 opportunities–an average of 1 break chance in each of the Russian’s service games.

Roger comes out with the win in 1 hour and 39 minutes, and will face tonight’s winner, Marcos Baghdatis, who Federer defeated for his 2nd Australian Open title, or world # 1 Rafael Nadal, who has not faced Federer on a hardcourt since his 5 set major victory over Federer in Melbourne in 2009.  The two rivals have not met on a fast hardcourt since the semi-finals of the Year End Championships in 2007, and have not met in the semi-finals of an open event since Roland Garros in 2005.  Nadal is yet to advance past the semi-finals in Cincinnati, which is the only Masters Series event that he has never played in the final of.

Nadal and Federer are on the same side of the draw, despite being ranked 1 and 2, because Federer was 3rd in the world last week when the draws for Cincinnati were announced.

On the other side of the draw, a re-invigorated Andy Roddick, who just last week seemed to be talking about a lack of energy and suffering from mononucleosis, defeated Robin soderling lst night in impressive fashion, blasting 26 aces, and then today took out Novak Djokovic, 6-4, 7-5 today in 1 hour and 21 minutes.  While this week has been good for Roddick, who should have already done enough here to return to the top ten next week, I can’t say I didn’t cringe when loyal Roddick supporter Patrick McEnroe, upon seeing Roddick make consecutive backhand touch volleys, called the net play “Fish like.”

No disrespect this time around to the newly dedicated Mardy Fish and his three recent titles (Newport on grass, Atlanta, and LA in doubles with Mark Knowles), but they have been talking about Fish this week like he’s Roger, and Andy like he’s Fish.  Fish may have gotten the impressive victory over Murray today, who himself is on a roll in terms of giving landmark top 5 wins to Americans this summer (Querrey, Farmers Classic F.), but Roddick took out Soderling, which seems to me the taller order.  While Roddick/Fish makes for great copy in a semi-final, All-American, the two kids who lived together growing up (Fish lived with Roddick’s family so that he could play tennis) and who were working out together at the Roddick compound in Austin just last week, facing off, I have to say I will be rooting for Roddick hard tomorrow.  Roddick may have had a bad Wimbledon, but he did win 2 rounds at Roland Garros, and has been to 2 Masters Series finals this year consecutively (Indian Wells, Miami).  Dandy Andy’s Australian effort was hampered by injury, but he still almost came back from down two sets and gimpy versus eventual semi-finalist Marin Cilic.

Roddick is the bigger star.  When he’s right, he owns Fish, and it would be great for tennis to see a powerhouse final like Federer or Nadal versus Roddick on Sunday, especially after we were led to think that Roddick’s recent woes and health issues might impinge on his US Open efforts just last week.  

Win or lose for Fish, he will re-enter the top 25 next week, which will include four Americans for the first time in a couple of years.  In case you’re wondering, Fish last went to a Masters final at Indian Wells in 2008, where he beat Roger Federer and lost a tight final to Novak Djokovic.

–Crack (,

Current back to back Rogers Cup champion and pride of Britain, Andy Murray (above).

Last weekend, amid a semi-raucous bachelor party, your loyal scribe still made time for some definite appointment television: Saturday evening from Toronto, it was the 15th career meeting between the legend and the lame–Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, and then Sunday at 3 PM, after Roger had taken care of his business from the night before, it was the Australian Open rematch from this year, in a best of 3 set format live from Toronto between Roger Federer and Andy Murray.

That major final–and that major in its entirety for that matter–was the last time we saw Federer move with the surgical precision of a highly artistic grim reaper, completely dusting Nikolay Davydenko in a quarter-final matchup in which Federer won an incredible 14 straight games, after dropping the first set, a winning run that stretched on into a 2nd hour.

Roger then held a clinic in the semi-finals, abusing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets, and going deep into the bag of tricks while doing so, pulling out the lob volley and the drop shot serve return, on his way to a date in the finals with Andy Murray and an inevitable 16th major championship and 4th Australian title, jumping on Murray early in a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (11) straight set whipping that left Murray in tears.  You remember Murray’s classic loser’s speech (below) in which he declared that he “can cry like Roger, I just can’t play like him.”

Murray, who we are intensely critical of here in this space (we don’t like players who wait around for errors; we like players who take the initiative), suffered a heart breaking 4 set loss with the weight of the British Isles on his shoulders in the semi-finals of Wimbledon 09 to American Andy Roddick, then made a big deal of telling the world that there was too much pressure on him at Wimbledon, and that he’d train harder than ever for the major where he felt he had the best chance, the quick hardcourts of Flushing.  Several weeks of interviews and ESPN commercials later that showed Andy Murray doing situps with a medicine ball and training in the hot Miami sun–and talking about how great he is–and then Murray posts a big win over arch rival Juan Martin Del Potro in Montreal, and the next thing you know, this kid is telling the cameras of his personal rankings computations and how if he wins Cincinnati and The Open, he takes over the top ranking on the computer.

Federer, panned for dropping so many best of 3 set matches to Murray in his career (2-6 vs. Murray until then with all the losses coming in best of 3’s), must have been watching ESPN with a healthy distaste for the British media darling.  He jumped on Murray in the finals at Cincy, took the 1st set off the kid in 17 minutes which left him reeling, on his way to a 6-2, 7-6 (8) victory that assured Federer of the top spot for months to come.  Murray then came out in the round of 16 at The Open, took a big serving, ball crushing opponent like Marin Cilic lightly, and the big man dusted Murray 7-5, 6-2, 6-2, ending Murray’s 2009 quest for a major title, and rendering his year a grave disappointment, despite his 6 titles during the calendar year that led all players on the tour. 

Murray had regressed, had struck out at his self proclaimed best major, and had let down his major hungry nation and fanbase.  For a good player who had become a big endorsement machine, and who had a lot of considerable, albeit, lesser hardware in his trophy case, Murray got smoked in the 3 spots where he was racked with the most pressure and expectations: Wimbledon, the home major, Cincinnati, the first step in his plan to steal the # 1 ranking, and the US Open, the major that Murray basically announced would have his name on the trophy.  And to add insult to injury, one time prospective coach and current Roddick coach, Larry Stefanki, ripped Murray after Wimbledon for his gutless, passive style.  Recall that Murray had once had his camp ask Stefanki if he’d coach Murray, and Stefanki replied by telling Murray’s people to have the kid call him.  Murray never called, and Stefanki perceived the non call as diva like behavior from the kid.  Stefanki ended up coaching Chilean one handed star, Fernando Gonzalez, who despite not having english mastered, did call Stefanki personally, before eventually winding up in Roddick’s box.

Sunday’s showdown between Federer and Murray marked their first meeting since Oz, featured Federer on a court more favorable to his game (43 out of 62 of Roger’s titles have come on hards) despite it suiting Murray well too, saw Federer in pursuit of his first title since Australia, and Murray in pursuit of his first title of the year of any sort, and featured Federer as the all time leader in career masters series match wins–a lot of buzz for a Masters Series final.

The matchup meant that Roger had put in his best week of tennis since Australia, not coincidentally in his first week on tour with new coach Paul Annacone, with gutsy 3 set wins over rising nemesis Tomas Berdych and rival Novak Djokovic, whom Federer blitzed 6-1 in the first set, but who looked a lot more stout an hour later when he seemed to be cracking backhand winners at will, and serving well.  From mid second set when Djokovic won back a break until the middle of the 3rd set, Djokovic played the more solid tennis, made fewer errors, and seemed to punish every short ball Federer gave him a look at.  And I said to my buddy, “Fed’s done.”

Not so fast.  It only took a few shaky serves from the Djoker for Roger to get way out in front in the 3rd game of the 3rd set, and a tired looking Roger seemed to transport himself back to Federer circa 2006, dialing up the trademark run around forehand at will until Federer had set up a Sunday date with Murray.  I went out that night aglow, I admit, with thoughts of Roger Federer returning to dominance on hardcourts against Murray the next day, in Cincy like fashion.  Yes, Roger would return to tournament winning tennis by taking his 3rd Rogers Cup, with new coach–the perfect attacking style coach for Federer, former Sampras’ coach Paul Annacone, sitting bemused in the box next to Mirka.

A thousand words plus and we are barely to the actual match.  Enjoy these volumes if you are one to, because you probably won’t see another write-up of the sort on tennis for some time out of me, with many vacations coming up and a few weekend weddings on the slate.

Then the match started.  I told my boy that I expected–no, I knew that Roger would win, that Roger probably already had the kid psyched out, and I expected to see the Cincy 09 final repeated.  Roger would jump all over Murray early, the way he did in 08 at the Open and in 2010 in Australia, and of course, last year in Ohio.  The way he jumped on Djokovic the night before, who, by the way, had a very notable supporter in the stands–world # 1 Rafael Nadal, who came out to watch Fed/Djoker XV in a pink Polo shirt a few hours after Murray straighted him.  Perhaps Fed/Djoker really piqued the Spaniard’s interest, perhaps Nadal was being a good teammate to Djokovic, who was his doubles partner that week.  At any rate, I thought it was a very classy move on Nadal’s part to take in the match as a spectator, especially after suffering a tough loss a few hours prior.

My big Federer hypothesis held up for all of 1 point on Sunday.  Federer, with serve, stepped up and passed Murray to take the first point.  But on the 30-15 point, in a long baseline rally, Murray kicked the ball up high to Federer’s backhand–the Rafa play–and forced the error.  Fed played tight on the next two points, and Murray seemed to play way more aggressively than normal, perhaps with Larry Stefanki’s harsh sentiments echoing in his ears, or perhaps as a result of the watchful eye of Judy Murray, the mother and sometimes coach of Andy Murray, who we assume had her duties expanded when Murray fired coach Miles Maclagan.

A look to the player’s box revealed that Annacone was not present coaching Federer for the Murray match, an ominous sign for Federer.  But Annacone was prevented from being in the box by a conflict of interest, as his responsibilities to the British LTA have not yet been totally severed, so the man on the scene who knew best about Murray’s game, having coached him for 2 years in Davis Cup, could not actually be on the scene.

Murray jumped out to a 3-love edge, breaking Federer again in Roger’s next service game, and Brad Gilbert pointed out that Roger was tight, and worn out from two hard fought 3 set night matches in a row.  Federer broke back to reclaim 1 of the breaks to get to 3-1, and then capitalized as Murray served for the set at 5-4, and threw in a shaky game, as Murray has always been notoriously bad at closing out sets on serve.  Federer got to 5-5, and very importantly, began to flash the footwork, hitting his first backhand winner on a lightning strike of a pass in the crucial 5-4 break back game.  I felt like Roger was getting it together, but then Federer comes out loose in the 5-5 game on his serve, but down break point Roger smashed a high backhand volley winner, and then he comes in for a touch volley to go up the ad, before wasting a few first serves, then going down another break point on a classic rally point, and then giving up the break before Murray quickly served out the set.

It was a bleak set for Roger, who only came up with 4 winners, total.  When Roger loses the first set to a guy like Murray, who you know is going to fight hard for every point, the doubt begins to creep in about Roger’s ability to take two difficult sets after dropping a hard one.  So it was.  Murray won an early break to go up 3-1, and then the rains came.  Roger would get it back to 5-5 after a rain delay, but ended up dropping the match to Murray, who took his first title of the year, a few weeks after losing in exciting fashion to American Sam Querrey at the Farmers Classic, where Murray was a late entrant wildcard, the top seed and a prohibitive favorite.

Sunday, despite my good feelings coming into the match, was a bleak day for Roger in an otherwise good week.  Murray proved to be the better conditioned player, and the better mover on hardcourts right now, and in watching the match, I marveled at how he hadn’t won a title this year, despite his no guts style.  Though I am no Murray fan and never will be, I find myself empathizing with his plight–the awkward kid with the domineering mom who cried like a baby in Melbourne at the trophy presentation.  The kid who takes out Nadal for Roger, and who just wants to play video games sometimes, who has the weight of a nation’s major tennis hopes squarely on his shoulders.

What about his mom?  Good tennis fans would know that many of the players who Murray came up with do not like his mom, and notably, US Open Champion Juan Martin Del Potro has had heated arguments with both Murray and his mother, on court and in the locker room, stemming from Murray’s mom’s propensity to cheer too loudly during matches.

As for Roger, I’m going to stick with a my time honored philosophy of not getting too crazy about results in the Masters Series.  As gratifying a win as Federer’s was for me last year in Cincy, it would have been much better had he lost in Cincinnati and won The Open.  Was his footwork good enough to beat Murray on a fast hardcourt on Sunday?  No.  But let’s give Paul Annacone a chance–it’s only been a week.  Federer has some work to do yet to prepare for The Open, and hopefully he has enough time to get his feet right going into Flushing, where Federer can pull off an amazing double should he win.  Winning The Open would give Roger a record 6 Wimbledon and 6 US Open titles.

Though it could be disconcerting when a lumberer like Querrey can beat Murray, and a re-invented Mardy Fish can beat Murray (Fish just eliminated Murray from Cincinnati, 6-7 (7), 6-1, 7-6 (5)), and Roger doesn’t.  And it will be, if Federer isn’t more ready for Murray should they meet in Flushing.  Still, something tells me Roger will be okay when he gets his body on the major schedule, and has a day, sometimes two, between matches (except for the semi-finals and finals, which are played on the final Saturday and Sunday consecutively, unlike any other major, and making the US Open even tougher for most to win.)

–Crack (,

Novak Djokovic has ascended to world # 2, surpassing Roger Federer, who is now out of the top 2 for the first time since November of 2003.  Below are the top 10 players in this week’s ATP top ten:

Rank Name & Nationality Points Position Moved Tournaments Played
1 Nadal, Rafael (ESP) 10,745 0 18
2 Djokovic, Novak (SRB) 6,905 1 21
3 Federer, Roger (SUI) 6,885 -1 20
4 Murray, Andy (GBR) 5,155 0 17
5 Soderling, Robin (SWE) 4,935 1 25
6 Davydenko, Nikolay (RUS) 4,740 -1 25
7 Del Potro, Juan Martin (ARG) 4,350 1 17
8 Berdych, Tomas (CZE) 3,845 5 25
9 Roddick, Andy (USA) 3,490 -2 20
10 Verdasco, Fernando (ESP) 3,475 -1 25

The rest of the top 100 can be looked at at the link below:

Federer last week blamed poor outings in the quarter-finals of both Roland Garros and Wimbledon on back and leg injuries, something he had not mentioned prior this year.  Tomas Berdych thought the excuse making was in bad form.

In interviews after the loss, Federer said he thought Berdych played more consistently from the baseline than in the past.  However, Federer also seemed to spend a lot of time talking about how a sore back/leg hadn’t allowed him to play (as well) as he would have liked.  When Venus Williams was upset in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, she was asked in her post-match press conference if she’d been injured and she replied that she never talks about injuries.

Federer, who usually takes about 5 weeks off after Wimbledon, is expected to do the same this year.  Hopefully for tennis, he comes back 100 % and is in fine form for the US Open.  Federer has not won a title since claiming his 16th singles major championship in Australia in straight sets over Andy Murray to start the 2010 season.

–Crack (

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