Paul Henri Matthieu


Sloane Stephens (above), popping a serve off against Mathilda Johansson on Friday in an easy breezy victory.

While we understood Serena as the prohibitive pre-tournament favorite, we have said many times that clay is a different animal that always treats her differently.  We said that her M.O. at RG was that something always seems to go wrong.  Were we surprised at the loss to Razzano?  Absolutely.  Were we on it?  No.  Betting against Serena is a bad business, as we’ve said, and only further reinforced by her destruction of Azarenka in Madrid, and that little gambit we took with Vica.

Hopefully someone took our underdog philosophy and made some bank on Razzano.  Still, not an easy bit of business, down a set and 5-1 in the breaker before the tide turned.  How often does Serena choke one away?  Or lose R1 at a major?  Until Tuesday, the answers to both were never.  But then again, neither the partisan French crowd–in truth a pit of vipers–nor Chair Eva Asderaki, with whom Lady S has past history, were going to do her any favors.  On Asderaki: 1) That’s a tough over-rule.  I don’t like to criticize calls, as it’s bad form, and at RG, the Chairs do player a larger role than elsewhere because the stupid clay leaves stupid marks…and yet, there is simply no line call conflicts on any other surface and at the other majors, where they have gone to modern technology.  John McEnroe has said often enough that he feels he would have been far more successful with the current Hawkeye system because he expended so much energy fighting officials and that had such a negative impact on his game.  Anyone who remembers John John understands the point all too well.  Are the French cheap, stupid, or just stubborn?

Ding ding ding.  Anyway on to 2) Point penalties for “hinderance” on player audibles are never called, yet has now been called by 1 Chair in 2 different majors against Serena in the last calendar year.  Does Asderaki make that call against Azarenka and Sharapova, the tour’s loudest players?  No.  But then again, they haven’t called Asderaki a “hater” and a “terrible person.”  But then again, again, Asderaki’s 1st hinderance call in the US OPEN FINAL against Stosur was not prompted by unfortunate remarks.

The Chair has played way too big of a role in Serena’s most recent USO & RG losses.  The same Chair.  While we may stop short of calling Asderaki a racist on this page, we would have to agree with Serena’s assessment.  Also, we aren’t one of those types who scoffs at the notion of racism in tennis.  We also feel that Asderaki is obviously prejudiced against Serena, if not actually prejudice (although…)  In a virtually even match on points (Razzano won on total points by 5, 117-112), those 3 points essentially gifted to Razzano would have swung the total in favor of Serena by one.  Three points is practically a game, or half a breaker.  Frankly, the Chair should not play a determining role in ANY match, EVER.  If the Chair’s fairness is questioned, then it ruins the integrity of the game.

On to little Lauren Davis, who announced herself this week with a huge victory over very impressive German Mona Barthel.  We thought Barthel was set to turn heads here.  But Davis, on a foreign surface, abused Barthel.  Despite her loss to the American bulldog, Christina McHale in the next round, we are very pleased with her results, obviously coming into RG prepared for both the surface and the stage.  If Barthel hasn’t yet registered as a name, it’s only because ascent has been so meteoric.  That is a tremendous win.  Perhaps MJF is doing a better job with our young ones than we usually credit her for, having been awarded the Fed Cup post out of what we feel is blatant cronyism.  As for McHale, she may not be ready to take out Li Na, but we watched it closely, and also listened to RadioRG tell it in stretches.  We all thought that McHale scared Li very much with that strong, clean first set, and you can really see McHale winning a match like that next time around.  McHale seems to get as much torque on her forehand as any woman we’ve seen this week.  In short, Joy-zee was in da house.

John Isner, 2 years after setting the major match length record at SW-19 after his 70-68 5th set win over Mahut, now has the French Open record, this time losing to Paul Henri Matthieu 18-16 in the 5th.  This match has us considering if John McEnroe isn’t right about something else as well.  We were inclined to disagree with Johnny Mac, who has pushed for deciding 5th set breakers at all the majors.  We had felt that the extended 5th set format at the AO, RG, SW-19, and DC has a certain mystique and that the players who take part in those matches enhance the history of the game and their own names by playing in these most memorable matches.

But the epic Isner-Mahut affair did effectively scuttle the rest of both players’ 2010 seasons.  Mac talked about how the players have discussed job actions in order to pursue better prize money for lesser players and better protections.  He’s correct that the 5th set breaker would protect players health and ultimately their careers.  And the very personable Dimitry Tursunov underscored the travails of the lesser player in a phenomenal interview he gave to Matt Cronin and Matt Brown of RadioRG.  Tursunov discussed his gig as a pro tennis blogger and how fickle fans always threaten to unfollow him, and more serious stuff, like how expensive the tour is for lesser players like him, who God forbid, want to travel with a coach, a physio and even a girlfriend.  Tursunov candidly explained that in a city like Paris he can barely afford to do anything.  We loved Tursunov in this spot.  While Justin Gimelstob (who hit with Brian Baker prior to Baker’s win over Xavier Malisse and gave great insight as to the Baker story, an American who played in the RG Junior Final in 2003 and was injured the next year and then spent almost 8 years off the tour) is obviously our favorite TTC personality by a mile, we are considering throwing our support behind Tursunov as well, who would be a fine score for TTC.

After an easy R1, Isner spoke with Bill Macatee of TTC, and discussed how he really likes playing on the clay, because of the time it affords him and because the ball bounces up high, right into his strike zone.  We weren’t paying close enough attention, and missed on another upset.  Paul Henri Matthieu is perhaps the flattest hitting Frenchman there is, and goes very flat on both sides.  Even flatter, we feel, than Gilles Simon.  Isner got a bad matchup in that regard, and is not as good when he has to get down low to play balls.  But the central issue with Isner remains his inability to generate opportunities in the return game.  We talked a lot about how Kevin Anderson was such a bad matchup for him back in Delray, because Anderson holds serve easily.  How many times have we seen Isner play these matches where he can’t muster a break?  We know that Jim Courier has been coordinating his efforts with guys like Isner and Harrison, and their coaches.  Isner’s coach, Craig Boynton, has done a great job getting this giant to play defense as he does, but the laterals are always going to be the question with a guy this big.  And now, in 3 recent majors (2012 AO, 2012 FO, 2010 SW-19), he has had to go to an extended fifth set, and all 3 times he faced unimpressive servers (Nalbandian, Mahut, Matthieu), or relatively unimpressive servers.

Isner has heart and smarts and weapons, but he has to do better in spots like these.  Matthieu in the 2nd round, on a collision course with Andy Murray, weak on clay in the quarters, then possibly Nadal, who he pushed to a 5th set here last year, Nadal’s only 5th set ever at RG.  That’s a bitter defeat.  But Wimbledon should also offer a wealth of opportunities for a guy who serves out of a tree top.

Then there’s Sloane Stephens.  Wow.  This is why we have been begging for her inclusion on the Fed Cup team.  She’s our best bet.  She’s not tiny like McHale, but she can defend like McHale, and her weapons are real.  Frankly, she has dominated this week, blowing out BMS and Johansson, and also straight setting Makarova, who was a big favorite.  We are going with her tomorrow against another SS, Sam Stosur.  We’ve gotten hot, pegging Varvara Lepchenko for good things throughout the week so far (another American), and today we had Granollers, Kanepi, and Rus.

Tomorrow it’s Sloane at +475.  As we see it, Stephens has the pace to target Stosur’s backhand and actually get the ball there.  If Stosur is allowed to run around every forehand, she wins.  She probably does enough to win here tomorrow, but she has been very wonky since winning the Open, and Sloane has the power and speed to show her up a little.  We do not see this line as being a realistic indicator of the scoreline.  We do not see the rock solid Stosur we saw two years ago here.

We’ll be happy to watch it all play out, provided NBC and ESPN and TTC can get the coverage straight, and we don’t have to watch a Spanish feed of the match off the internet (as we did today for Raonic-Monaco).  And hopefully Asderaki is chairing on another court, or better yet, no court at all.

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

 

A defeated Roddick congratulates Yen Hsun Lu at Wimbledon (above).

World # 11, 8th seeded Andy Roddick, has withdrawn from the Rogers Cup Toronto Masters Series event due to an unspecified illness that the top American has hinted at in recent days.

The one-time number one, now ranked 11th, foreshadowed the news a week ago as he lost in the third round in Washington, saying he was feeling unwell.

His summer started poorly with an early Wimbledon loss and a semi-final defeat in Atlanta at the hands of childhood friend Mardy Fish.

No further news of Roddick’s condition has since emerged, with his pullout rating a terse one-line sentence in a tournament release.

The American will be replaced in the draw by qualifying round lucky loser Paul-Henri Mathieu, who will play in the second round on Wednesday against Taiwan’s Lu Yen-Hsun, who knocked Roddick out in the Wimbledon fourth round.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gNY1QsjaHZMvCBkbqzo6EFdQ1tpA

Bad news for Andy, who usually plays his best tennis from Wimbledon to the US Open.

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/08/11/federer-wins-debut-with-annacone-roddick-out-of-top-10/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/03/17/battle-of-the-tennis-wives-pics-included/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/05/10/battle-of-the-tennis-wives-ii-brooklyn-decker-vs-sara-foster/

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

Now that a time honored rainless Wimbledon tradition has passed in the 2010 championships–the no play middle Sunday–we can all look ahead to today’s round of 16 matchups.  On Monday, all men’s and women’s round of 16 matches will be played–almost too much tennis–even for Wimbledon junkies like us.

Centre Court

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(1) Roger Federer vs. (16) Jurgen Melzer….the top dog leads off the day on CC in a very favorable matchup.  At least, we think it’s favorable for Federer, though it’s hard to be certain considering he has never met the surprising Austrian, who has made the better part of his living on clay.  Melzer doesn’t seem to have the weapons for grass or to hurt federer, but we thought the same thing of Federer’s opponent last Monday, Alejandro Falla, who took the first 2 sets.  Federer, heavily taxed in the first two rounds, looked considerably better against Arnaud Clement, who is another guy we feel can’t hurt Roger.  At this stage.  As for Melzer, he has played excellent all court tennis in the last year, and has made himself a seed from a journeyman.  Anything’s possible, but a Melzer win would represent one of the hugest upsets in Wimbledon history.  We’ll take Roger, and we hope it’s a quickie, so that he can rest up for who we think will be Tomas Berdych in the quarters.

(1) Serena vs. (17) Sharapova…good luck, Maria.  She’lll need it.  Serena is in fine form, and has pitched bagels in the first set of all 3 of her matches so far, an interesting major tournament immeasurable.  Sharapova, right now, has the champion’s heart, but her game lacks the pop that once blew Serena of this court in the final 6 years ago.  All Serena, all day.  Sharapova will be lucky to hold on to her serve for a few games.

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/serena-advances-to-3rd-round-wimbledon-where-she-will-clash-with-sharapova/

(18) Sam Querrey vs. (4) Andy Murray…Samurai Sam has really impressed us.  Last year, he had a very hard luck loss to Marin Cilic, who was then beaten in one of the better matches of the tournament by Tommy Haas, who knew he couldn’t win by staying in the backcourt, so he rushed the net with fury.  For Querrey, this is a super tough matchup because Murray will control the backcourt, and Sam doesn’t have the ability to get to net, unless he rips a really solid forehand approach.  The game plan worked well at Queen’s but has shown chinks in the armor versus Dodig and Malisse.  Murray is good enough,, and has enough variety, to keep the ball away from Sam’s forehand.  Sam has the better serve, but Murray can hit the 130s on the gun as well.  Sam has an outside chance at best, whch could improve if Murray struggles on his first serve.  Murray, the pride of Britain, doesn’t get near 100 MPH usually on his 2nd serve, and the 22 year old American will need to capitalize on those 2nd balls.  Still, we see this as an immensely difficult spot for Querrey, who can go home and already have people say he had a successful grass court season.  We will root for Sam, but we like Murray tomorrow.

Court one

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(8) Clijsters vs. (17) Henin…for us, Henin is the natural grass courter, despite her lack of a Wimbledon championship.  Henin has had trouble in her career with Clijsters power and steady game–on hardcourts.  The two Belgian saviors have been at this rivalry for a while and both have twelve wins in the head to head.  Henin holds a 3-1 lead on grass, though all of the matches were close.  The two will play an exhibition in the fall in their home country that is expected to be the most well attended tennis match in history, with about 43,000 spectators expected.  Henin is not as rock solid as she used to be, and while we have her as the favorite, we would not be surprised if Clijsters won this round of 16 match.

(3) Djokovic vs. (15) Hewitt…Hewitt, a Wimbledon champion and well established grass courter, gets the extra offense he needs on grass that his small body can’t manufacture on clay and sometimes on hards.  The ball moves through the grass quickly, and adds pop to his serve.  Frankly, we like him here.  He’s healthy, has had a good grass season, and we’ve seen very little from Djokovic since his only major victory in Australia in 2008.  Plus, Hewitt is a better fighter than the Djoker, and his fighting spirit should help him in a close match.

Paul-Henri Matthieu vs. (2) Rafael Nadal…the four hour matches have taken a toll on Rafa.  Playing 4 hours against Istomin at Queen’s Club, and then two straight 5 setters here, where he was back to usual tricks, with trainers and tennis elbow and the balky knee.  But tomorrow, we don’t see much to prevent Rafa from moving on to the quarters, where he could possibly be in trouble, if Soderling makes it through.  Even banged up, Nadal has too much game for guys like Matthieu, who hovers around world # 50.  Top ten guys will expose his injury problems in ways that lesser opponents can not.  Matthieu has a slim chance if he serves big and hits a lot of lines.  Hopefully he can make it interesting, though I am not banking on it.

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/06/26/banged-up-nadal-survives-petzschner-advances-to-round-of-16-wimbledon/

Court Two

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(2) Venus vs. Jarmila Groth…we love Venus, and are blinded sometimes by that love.  Even though we’ve been very impressed with Groth, this is the real big time, and she’s already playing with house money by being in this round.  The best grass courter in the game is a tall order for Groth, and we doubt she’ll be up to it.  But from what we’ve seen, Groth is going to put a decent career together, and the Aussies do have grass in their blood.  Venus should win easily, unless she comes out flat, like she did against Petrova in Paris.  Can’t remember the last time she turned out flat at The All England Club though.

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/american-melanie-oudin-upset-by-jarmila-groth-of-australia-in-round-2-wimbledon/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/06/26/venus-andy-advance-to-round-of-16-wimbledon-williams-sisters-advance-in-doubles/

(3) Caroline Wozniacki vs. Petra Kvitova…neither player is suited to grass, but Wozniacki is too good and too steady.  A loss here would be a major upset.

Yen-Hsun Lu vs. (5) Dandy Andy…Is Lu going to be getting a lot of 140 MPH bombs back in play?  Tall order.  We could see Roddick going far in this tournament, who has played excellent tennis–aggressive, but with a low error count.  Look for it to continue to tomorrow.

Court Five

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Pironkova vs. (11) Bartoli…Bartoli has been a finalist here, but we don’t like her conditioning.  Her movement needs to be the key for her on grass, giving her time ti set up her awkward 2 handers off both sides.  Bartoli won her 3rd round match in a walkover, and should be rested, but we wouldn’t be too shocked if Pironkova pulled the upset.

Klara Zakopalova vs. Kaia Kanepi…both players have a great opportunity here and are playing with house money.  We’re not leaning any particular way, and have no rooting interest yet.

Court Twelve

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(21) Zvonareva vs. (4) Jankovic…we may be biased by our disdain for Jankovic, but she’s no grass courter, and Zvonareva has some pop that JJ should be worried about.  Jankovic will be scrambling all match, and she’ll give VZ some break chances.  We like the Russian.

(32) Bennetau vs. (10) Tsonga…two proud Frenchman duel, and Tsonga is the clear favorite, and came through his last match in straights.  But we aren’t in love with him tomorrow.  Bennetau is hot, and these guys have practiced and played doubles together, so there’s no element of surprise.  I look for Bennetau to get a lot of balls back, and I would favor JB in a longer match than a shorter one.

(6) Soderling vs. (9) Ferrer…The Spaniard is a warrior but the Swede is a viking.  We don’t see Soderling having much trouble with Ferrer, but in fairness, David has shocked us before.

Court Eighteen

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(9) Na Li vs. (7) Agnieska Radwanska…Li’s a great player, and more accomplished than Radwanska, whose game is tailor made for clay.  But we like Agnieska, though that might be foolish.  both ladies have played very well this month.

(12) Tomas Berdych vs. Daniel Brands…Berdych is a huge favorite, but at 6’5, if Brands can keep the ball low, and make Berdy bend his knees, shot after shot, he could have a chance.  But I doubt it.  i favor Berdyh as well, in a big way, and think he will be really tough for Roger in that potential quarter-final.

Enjoy your grass court tennis, the way the Gods intended…

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

World # 1, 2nd seed, and 2008 Wimbledon Champion Rafael Nadal survived another tough 5 setter, coming back from 2 sets to 1 down in successive rounds, to beat talented German Philipp Petzschner, 6-4, 4-6, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-3 in 3 hours and 45 minutes earlier on Centre Court.  Nadal faced a much taller order than it seemed in the first set, when the Spaniard was able to control play with his heavy forehand, earning a break of serve in the first game of the match and then holding for a 6-4 lead after one set.

Some 2 hours and 45 minutes later, Nadal had still not mustered another break against the very impressive German, who John McEnroe said, has a “totally perfect service motion.”  Petzschner only saw 1 break opportunity on Nadal’s serve, and took advantage with quick hands at the net, knocking off a forehand volley to level the match at a set a piece.  In the third set, Petzschner’s tactics really seemed to be bothering Nadal, who was also limited by physical problems.  Petzschner (below), uniquely employing both a one handed slice backhand and an abbreviated motion one hander, along with a 2 handed backhand, either sliced back Nadal’s topspin or blocked it back by taking the ball early, using Nadal’s pace, which gave Nadal enormous problems.

Petzschner’s perfect service motion produced 25 aces and many clutch serves in the first three sets, as even though he got down a mini break in the third set tie breaker, he was still able to serve out the set.  Nadal seemed bothered by his left elbow, which was one of the reasons he had trainers out to Centre Court in the third set.  Later, Nadal received a massage to his right knee area, a chronic trouble spot for the grinder due to his style of play.  Nadal was also unnerved when he received a warning for receiving coaching, which Mary Carillo called “about time.”

The 26 year old Petzschner, largely a doubles specialist until last year, played a phenomenal three sets against Nadal, and had his opportunities to eliminate the Spaniard–the 2nd straight match in which Nadal looked imminently beatable.  Petzschner, the world # 44, came in to the year around 80, and has caught our eye with his impressive variety and touch, which he had on display today, as well as his guts–the German approached the net 71 times in the match, served and volleyed frequently, and had to make several difficult half volleys.  In fact, Petzschner seemed to have a great gameplan in place against Nadal, one that Roger Federer should have taken copious notes on.

Nadal, who said after the match that his injuries have resulted from playing so many matches in the last few months, said his knee was “not so bad.”  He will face Frenchman Paul Henri Matthieu in the round of 16, who we can’t recall ever giving Rafa much trouble.

But Nadal could face a troublesome quarter-final matchup should favorites win out.  Robin Soderling, who beat Thomaz Bellucci in straights today, could face Nadal in the quarter-finals.

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