Review of the 2015 Wimbledon Championships

Novak DJokovic WImbledon 2015 trophy

Two of the most exciting weeks of the sporting year are now behind us, and the 2015 Wimbledon Championship ultimately went the way the bookmakers predicted.  Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams began the tournament as hot favourites for the men’s and women’s event respectively, and while there were a few close calls along the way, these two market leaders delivered over the finals weekend.

The victory over Roger Federer in the man’s final gave Novak Djokovic his third SW19 title and put to bed his disappointment of losing in the French Open final the previous month.  While that clay court championship is the only one of the four Grand Slams to still elude Djokovic, it is likely just a matter of time before the world number one adds the French to his nine other Grand Slam titles.  As far as Serena is concerned, her 6–4, 6–4 success over Garbine Muguruza was her 21st major title and also made her the oldest woman to win a Grand Slam event in the Open Era.

The 129th edition of the Wimbledon Championship provided us with plenty of thrills and spills, and even though the majority of matches went the way that the seedings suggested, there were still a number of incredible matches throughout proceedings.

Roger Federer is arguably the greatest tennis player of all time, and was attempting to become the sole record holder as far as the men’s title is concerned at this year’s tournament.  The current world number two had already amassed seven Wimbledon titles and jointly held the record alongside Pete Sampras.  At 33 years of age, this was arguably Federer’s last real opportunity to make the record his own, and he made a great attempt at achieving this feat.  Roger cruised through to the quarter final stage, and did not drop serve until his clash with Gilles Simon.

At the semi final stage, Andy Murray was the slight favourite to send Roger Federer packing from SW19, but it was the elder statesman who dominated the clash, defeating the British hope in straight sets, and progressing to the final in the process.  Murray put up some brave resistance but Federer was on great form in this match, showing that he retains so much of the silky skills and is a real tennis 'natural' - even at the age of 33 he still managed to dominate the 28 year old Murray and put real pressure on Murray's serve.

In the final, Federer found Novak Djokovic just too good in front a capacity centre court crowd, but the seven time champion could still leave with his head held high.  The final was by no means easy for Djokovic, with Federer starting off great and getting the match to 1-1 after two sets in which federer looked the better player.  After that though Djokovic took over and you couldn't help but feel that 2 weeks of tennis and the rigours of the tennis season might just have taken something out of Federer as the match got physically tougher.  There is no doubt that Federer is still probably the most popular modern tennis player, with his naural flow much better to watch than any other player, but Djokovic did what he does best and that was to play great power tennis with some nice technical shots thrown in for good measure.

Andy Murray had been a solid second favourite with most firms prior to the 2015 Wimbledon Championships getting underway, and this was unsurprising with the Scot coming into the event in fantastic form.  Murray had an excellent clay court campaign, his best to date, and cemented himself back inside the top three in the world rankings in the process.  A narrow defeat to Novak Djokovic in the French Open semi finals gave the Murray camp hope that on his favoured grass surface, the 2013 champion could once again get the better of the Serbian world number one.

Unfortunately for Andy Murray fans, he encountered an in-from Roger Federer at the semi final stages of Wimbledon, and did not get the opportunity to play Djokovic at this year’s championships.  Still, he can take plenty of encouragement from another Grand Slam semi final appearance, and Murray should have strong claims of making the latter stages of the US Open later in the year.  It does feel that Murray is still a rather distant third behind Djokovic and Federer in the rankings right now, he was clearly beaten by Federer in the semi and basically got bullied on his own serve.  If he could add more power to his first serve and get more aces then you feel that is the only way he is going to overcome the top two.  Murray has a good baseline game but just doesn't quite have the power to match Djokovic or the guile to overcome Federer.


2015 Australian Open Tennis Review

Novak Djokovic Australian Open 2015

The 2015 Australian Open reached a dramatic conclusion this past Sunday, as Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray went head to head in the final of the Men’s tournament.  This turned out to be a fitting climax to the first Grand Slam of the new tennis season, with a titanic battle between the two men who have dominated the Australian Open in recent years.

Djokovic took the first set by seven games to six, but was made to work hard by his Scottish opponent and it was Murray who secured the second set by the same score line.  The 2013 Wimbledon champion then went a break up in the third set, and looked to be in command during a period where four time Australian Open winner Djokovic was struggling badly with cramp.  The Serb was able to overcome his brief injury scare and run out a 6-3 winner, before dismantling Murray in the final set 6-0.

While this was the outcome that most pundits expected and one the betting market predicted, Andy Murray still comes out of the tournament with plenty of credit, and looks set to have a fruitful campaign under the guidance of Amelie Mauresmo.  As far as Novak Djokovic is concerned, this win gave the world number one an unprecedented fifth Australian Open title and cemented his position as one of the greatest tennis players of all time.  With both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer currently struggling to find their best form, Djokovic is likely to maintain his top spot in the rankings or the foreseeable future.

Although the Women’s tournament doesn’t garner quite as much interest as the Men’s, this year’s Australian Open final between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova had action and excitement to give the men a real run for their money.  As things turned out, Serena was able to secure a sixth Australian Open crown via a straight sets victory, but this certainly did not tell the whole story.

Williams came into the match as the overwhelming favourite, and did take the first set with relative ease, by a score of six games to three.  The second set was a very different story however, and the 2008 champion was able to stage a serious fight back and almost take the match into a deciding set, but ultimately went down 7-6 after a tie break defeat.  Since victory over her American opponent in the 2004 Wimbledon final, Maria Sharapova has lost seventeen consecutive matches to Serena Williams. There was a stage in the second set where Sharapova looked set to end that torturous run, but it just wasn't meant to be on this occasion.

The bookmakers have already priced up next year's Australian Open, and it's the 2015 champions who dominate the ante post markets.  Novak Djokovic is available at a best price of 11/8 generally, while losing finalist Andy Murray is a 7/1 chance with Coral.

It will be interesting to see if Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal can bounce back to form in time for the 2016 Australian Open, and it's Nadal who the odds compilers give the edge to on that front.  Rafa is currently an 8/1 chance at Coral, while Federer is on offer at a best price of 10s with Stan James. The Swiss world number two will be 34 years of age in August, and there aren't many players who have been able to compete at the highest level at such an age.

It's a similar story as far as the women are concerned, with Serena Williams 21/10 at Paddy Power, while Maria Sharapova is a 7/1 shot to avenge her defeat with Sportingbet.

ATP World Tour Finals Tennis 2014 Review

Novak Djokovic World Tour Finals 2014 Trophy

The 2014 ATP World Tour finals gave tennis fans two weeks of top class action and although the end of the event was somewhat anti-climactic, it was still a superb way to end the season.  As was the case in both 2012 and 2013, world number one Novak Djokovic was once again crowned champion at London's O2 Arena.

The Serbian did have some tricky matches en route to the final, but was able to come through the round robin stage with a perfect record, before making it to the semi final stage, where he would face Japan's Kei Nishikori.  After taking the first set 6-1, Djokovic let Nishikori get back into the match, before blowing his opponent away in the third set 6-0. Kei Nishikori can take a lot of positives from his run at this tournament however, having come through a very difficult group to make the semi finals of the event.  The young Japanese star looks set to have a bright future in front of him, and will likely be a force to be reckoned with at the Grand Slams in 2015.

Roger Federer came into the World Tour Finals looking to stake a claim for the world number one spot, and his three matches in Group B could not really have gone any smoother.  The Swiss legend brushed aside Kei Nishikori in two sets, and did exactly the same to both Andy Murray and David Ferrer.  Federer was in particularly fine form against the big British hope, winning 6-0, 6-1 and putting Murray out of the tournament in the process.

At the semi final stage, Roger Federer was pitted against his fellow countryman Stan Wawrinka, and this clash proved to be a real tough test for the seven time Wimbledon champion.  After losing the first set by six games to four, Federer won the second 7-5 before requiring a final set tie break to secure the win.  The match was not without its share of controversy however, and the two friends apparently had serious words in the dressing room at the conclusion of the clash.  Roger Federer's wife was to blame for the situation, as she was shouting out between points and Wawrinka took great exception to this. The two friends have since patched up their differences however and formed a successful partnership during the recent David Cup.

Roger Federer ATP World Tour Finals 2014

The clash with Wawrinka obviously took its toll on Federer as it was announced on the the day of the final that the man who last won the title in 2011 would be unable to compete due to injury.  This was quite clearly disappointing news, but tournament organisers worked quickly to provide the capacity crowd some entertainment.

While Novak Djokovic was awarded the 2014 ATP World Tour Finals trophy without having to actually beat anyone in the final, he did compete against Andy Murray in an exhibition, in addition to taking part in some doubles action with some legends of the game.  While a classic between Djokovic and Federer would have been preferable, these matches were certainly something different, and judging from the crowd reaction, they were a lot of fun to watch.

Having already landed the World Tour doubles title on three occasions, the Bryan Brothers Bob and Mike once again showed why they are the very best men's doubles pairing in the game by winning for a four time this year.  Although they were made to work hard by Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo in the final, the Bryans were able to come through 6-7, 6-2, 10-7 to win what was their 10th success of 2014 and their 103rd career title.  While doubles tennis doesn't get the same coverage or recognition as the singles, the Bryan's achievements in the game are truly outstanding.

Shanghai Masters Tennis 2014 Tournament Review

Roger Federer Shanghai Masters tennis 2014 Winner

Outside of the four Grand Slams, the Shanghai Masters is one of the most prestigious and rewarding tournaments in the ATP calendar.  This Masters competitions is always an ultra-competitive event and sees the biggest stars in the game compete for a share of the prize fund of almost $4m, and this year was no different.

It was Switzerland's Roger Federer who continued to roll back the years last week, with a really determined and at times gritter performance, to overcome Frenchman Giles Simon in the men's final. Although Federer won the match in straight sets, it took two tie breaks to determine the victor, with the 17 time Grand Slam winner coming through 7-6, 7-6.

The result took Roger Federer back up to the number two position in the world rankings and means he is now just one place behind Novak Djokovic.  Should Federer continue in this vein of form, he is going to be a real threat to all at the ATP Finals in London at the end of the season, and it would be an amazing story should Federer recapture the world number one spot at thirty three years of age.

Giles Simon has seen his tennis improve this season and although 2014 started badly, things have slowly turned, with the 2014 Shanghai Rolex Masters turning out to be the highlight.  En-route to the final, Simon defeated the likes of Stan Wawrinka, Tomas Berdych and Feliciano Lopez.

Gilles Simon Shanghai Masters 2014 Final

The current world number 18 made Roger Federer fight tooth and nail for the Shanghai Masters crown, and no one really deserved to lose what was an excellent final. It will be interesting to see whether Giles Simon can build on this performance, or if as is often the case, he continues to be an also ran.

While a third round exit for Scotland's Andy Murray doesn't sound particularly impressive, his chances of reaching the tour finals were boosted, albeit very slightly.  Murray's key rivals Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic both suffered second round defeats in Shanghai, and as a result, Murray takes a few more small steps towards the o2 Arena.

Andy Murray had previously won the Shanghai Masters twice, and also finished runner-up on another occasion, so it is a little surprising that he was unable to progress further in the tournament.  Most tennis pundits expected the 2013 Wimbledon champion to make a swift return to the top four following his return from injury, but that is still yet to happen. The longer Murray's slump goes on, the more it is open to question as to whether he will ever get back to the find of form which saw him win two Grand Slams.

Another player attempting to make a comeback from injury is Spaniard, Rafael Nadal.  The nine time French Open winner was beaten in the second round by countryman Feliciano Lopez, and just hasn't looked like his old self since making his return a few weeks ago.  Nadal has needed to take time away from the game due to injury a number of times over the years, as he is often plagued by trouble with both his knees.

This time, it was a wrist injury that was to blame for his hiatus, and it may be that it takes Rafael Nadal a bit of time to regain his confidence in playing shots at full power.  Wrist injuries are arguably one of the worst kind of ailments for a professional tennis player, and it can take a lot of time and patience to fully recover.  Nadal is definitely going to need to raise his game and quickly, if he is going to have a realistic chance of winning the ATP World Tour Finals come November.

US Open 2014 Tournament Review

US Open tennis 2014

The final Grand Slam of the 2014 professional tennis season is now over, and what a tournament it was. This was the 134th time the event has taken place at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and produced huge thrills and spills, especially as far as the men's section of the tournament was concerned.

Croatia's Marin Cilic created history by winning his first Grand Slam title and rising to number nine in the tennis world rankings in the process.  Cilic's game has really come on under new coach Goran Ivanisevic, with the Croatian proving that he is now capable of beating the very best players in the world.  Marin Cilic has always had the talent and physical presence on court, but arguably just lacked that little bit of self belief and confidence that is required to make the breakthrough to the very top of the game.  It looks like working with former Wimbledon champion Ivanisevic has really helped Cilic on that front and should be make it to the Tour Finals, it will be very interesting to see whether the new US Open champion can continue this level of play.

Marin Cilic US Open 2014 Trophy

Serena Williams captured her third successive women's US Open crown this year and cemented her position as one of the very best female tennis players of all time.  This was Serena's eighteenth Grand Slam title and continues her dominance of the world number one position.  Dane Caroline Wozniacki was unable to put up much resistance in the final, going down 6-3, 6-3.  Wozniacki has the potential to be Williams' main challenger in the women's game, having previously held the number one position. However, she still appears some way behind based on this evidence and Serena may well be able to continue her reign for a few years yet.  She is now the only player to have won over $50 million in prize money and currently sits in 7th as far as all time career WTA titles are concerned.

Arguably the greatest story of the 2014 US Open championship was Japan's Kei Nishikori and his run to the final.  At the quarter final stage, Kei came through a titanic five set encounter with Swiss number two Stan Wawrinka, but his greatest achievement was yet to come.  Nishikori faced world number one Novak Djokovic in his semi final, with the majority of sports pundits expecting a walkover for the Serbian. This was not to be the case however and it was Kei Nishikori who would see off the tournament favourite with relative ease to become the first Japanese player to ever reach a Grand Slam final.  Nishikori is also the only Japanese tennis player to have ever reached the top 10 in the ATP rankings and at just 24 years of age, he could be set to challenge for further Grand Slam titles over the coming seasons.

Following the US Open, two-time Grand Slam winner Andy Murray now faces a real battle to make the all-important ATP Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in November.  Murray played some excellent tennis during his quarter final defeat at the hands of old rival Novak Djokovic, but his body isn't yet at 100% following back surgery which was evident throughout the match.  Andy Murray will now need to find his best form if he is to take part in the prestigious finals and have any chance of boosting his current world ranking position.

Wimbledon 2014 Tournament Review

The 2014 Wimbledon Championship concluded on Sunday with an exciting five set match between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, Federer lost his bid to become the all time men's winner at Wimbledon with eight championships, while Djokovic ended his recent streak of finishing second in major tennis championships, to win his second Wimbledon title.

Djokovic Federer at Wimbledon 2014

On the women's side, 6th ranked Petra Kvitova needed only 55 minutes to claim her second title at Wimbledon, in a dominant two set victory over 13th ranked Eugenie Bouchard on Saturday.

The 2014 Wimbledon Championship gave tennis fans an exciting two weeks that was filled with some surprises and upsets, Andy Murray, who became the first British player to win Wimbledon in 77 years, failed in his attempt to defend his championship, when he was eliminated in the quarter finals by Grigor Dimitrov.

Andy Murray v Grigor Dmitrov at Wimbledon 2014

2014 French Open champion Rafael Nadal, the second seeded player in the men's bracket failed in his bid to win his third Wimbledon trophy and second Grand Slam tournament in a row when he was defeated in the fourth round by unranked Australian Nick Kyrgios, who won the match in four sets.

Other than Nadal being upset in the fourth round by Nick Kyrgios, and Murray being upset by Dimitrov, the final week of Wimbledon didn't have as many upsets as fans have been used to seeing lately, but it did provide fans with a few exciting matches along the way, like the quarter final match between the eventual champion Novak Djokovic, and 26th ranked Croatian Marin Cilic, which went the distance. After going down two sets to one, Djokovic rallied to win the final two sets, and advanced to the semi finals.

Djokovic also faced a strong test in the semi finals against Gregor Dimitrov, who eliminated Murray in the quarter finals; both players split the first two sets of their match, before Djokovic won the final two sets in tiebreakers.

Roger Federer had won all his Wimbledon matches in straight sets, until he got to the quarter finals, where he had some problems in his match against fellow countryman, the 2014 Australian Open winner Stan Wawrinka, he dropped the first set 6-3, before winning the next three sets.

The Women's draw was the opposite of the Men's, several big name players like Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Simona Halep, Li Na, and Victoria Azarenka were upset early in the tournament, making it one of the hardest Wimbledon Championships to predict, because all the big names were out.

Petra Kvitova Wimbledon 2014 Winner

Of all the top ranked women that lost, Li Na's third round exit had to be the biggest, because she won the Australian Open this year, and she was the second seeded player in the women's draw, and she lost to an unseeded player in straight sets.

Serena Williams' three set upset against the 25th ranked Alize Cornet in the third round was also big, but she hasn't played very well at Grand Slams this year, so the loss didn't surprise a lot of people.

The best match in the women's bracket was the three set match between 5th ranked Maria Sharapova, and 9th ranked Angelique Kerber, in a match that took 2 hours and 37 minutes, and also saw Sharapova fight off six match points in a valiant effort by the former Wimbledon Champion.

In the men's final, Roger Federer, who hasn't won a major since he won Wimbledon in 2012, was back in vintage form, and came very close to winning the elusive eighth Wimbledon Championship. He took the first set against Djokovic 7-6, then lost the second and third set 6-4, and 7-6 respectively, after which he rallied to win the fourth set 7-5, then eventually ran out of steam in the fifth set, losing it 6-4. It was one of the best finals at Wimbledon in a very long time, and hopefully the fans will get to see these two men go at it again in another Grand Slam final.

Petra Kvitova and Novak Djokovic Wimbledon 2014 Trophies Winners Ball

The 2014 Wimbledon Championship taught us fans to never underestimate the heart of a champion like Roger Federer, it also served as notice that the future of the game is in very good hands when the current greats like Federer and Serena Williams retire, because players like Novak Djokovic, and Petra Kvitova have shown that they are ready to take the torch from them, and carry it until another generation comes to take it from them.

US Open Tennis 2013 Review

The 2013 U.S Open concluded yesterday with Rafael Nadal defeating the No. 1 ranked Novak Djokovic in a four set match to claim his second U.S. Open championship and 13th Grand Slam championship, and Serena Williams successfully defending her U.S. Open title, and claiming her 17th Grand Slam by defeating 2nd ranked Victoria Azarenka in a three set thriller on Sunday. Djokovic had been the favourite and I had even used to have a bet on him winning the tournament at odds of 6/4 earlier in the week.

Rafael Nadal US Open 2013

The U.S. Open was filled with a lot of excitement, and some surprises. James Blake, a former No. 1 American player, who was once the world's No. 4 in 2006 announced his retirement, as did Nicolas Massu of Chile who won two Olympic Gold medals, and was ranked No. 9 in the World in 2004.

As usual there were a few upsets in the early rounds, some of the most notable were 25th Ranked Bulgerian Grigor Dimitrov losing to Joao Soua of Portugal in 5 sets, 24th Ranked Frenchman Benoit Paire lost to Russian Alex Bogomolov Jr. in a 5 set thriller, while 15th Ranked Italian Fabio Fognini was swept in three sets by American Rajeev Ram.

Retiring American James Blake went out in a spectacular 5 set match against Croatian Ivo Karlovic. Australian Lleyton Hewitt, a former world No. 1 and 2001 U.S. Open champion, tried to turn back the clock with an inspired run to the fourth round of the tournament defeating 6th Ranked Argentine Juan Martin del Potro along the way before eventually losing to Russian Mikhail Youzhny.

One of the big surprises at the U.S. Open was former No. 1 ranked and five time U.S. Open Champion Roger Federer of Switzerland losing in the fourth round to 19th Ranked Spaniard Tommy Robredo in three sets, this marked the first time Federer lost a U.S. Open match before the quarterfinals in a decade. The loss also denied tennis fans world wide of the first match between Federer, and long time rival Rafael Nadal at the U.S. Open.

Another Big surprise was Andy Murray who had been having a spectacular year, which included winning the Olympic Gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the 2012 U.S. Open, and was capped off by winning Wimbledon this year, becoming the first British player since 1977 to do so. With all the pressure of winning a Grand Slam and finally winning Wimbledon for Brits , Murray was supposed to contend for the U.S. Open, but he fell short, losing to Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka, ranked No.10 in the world in three lackluster sets.

Stanislas Wawrinka US Open 2013

American brothers Bob and Mike Bryan failed in their bid to become the first team since 1951 to win the doubles championship of all four Grand Slam tournaments in one year, when they lost in the semi finals to the team of Leander Paes, and Radek Stepanek, who went on to win the doubles championship.

The 2013 U.S. Open was also a first for American Tennis, for the first time in the history of the U.S. Open, no American male tennis player made it to the fourth round of the tournament, this would have been a great market to bet on using the Bet365 Bonus Code, on the bright side the women seem to be ready to pick up the slack for their male counterparts. There were a lot of surprises in the women's bracket that showed the world that there is a new generation of female players ready to carry the torch when Serena Williams decides to retire.

17 year old Victoria Duval defeated 2011 U.S. Open women's champion Sam Stosur in one of the biggest upsets on the female side of the bracket. 20 year old Sloane Stevens also had a great run at the tournament, but ran out of steam when she faced eventual champion Serena Williams in the fourth round, and 23 year Alison Riske also made to the fourth round, defeating 7th Ranked Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic along the way.

The final between No. 1 Ranked Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal didn't go the distance as most fans would have hoped, it did include an awesome 54 shot rally that was won by Djokovic. The biggest, and most amazing thing about Nadal's win is that he overcame a lot of injuries including a serious knee injury that kept him out of the tournament last year. He has won ten tournaments this year including the French Open, and is just four Grand Slam titles from tying Roger Federer's 17 Grand Slam. At 27 years old he may just end up being the best tennis player ever if he can stay healthy.

Serena Williams US Open 2013

The 2013 U.S. Open was historic because we witnessed the greatness of Serena Williams who at age 31, has had one of the most dominant years in female tennis and the return to form of Rafael Nadal, who is working he's way into the discussion of greatest players of all time.

Australian Open 2012 – Day 4 Blog

It’s only the second round of the Australian Open, but somehow the halving of the draw seems to feel like a huge difference in terms of what match options I have to start the day. Today is ANZ Day, where ANZ give out more goodies to their customers, and I was kind of pissed off lining up to see that they were handing out free ground passes to any customers, considering that I had bought mine.

The line appeared to be relatively long, but they do quick bag inspections here at the Australian Open. I’m not even sure that they even check them properly, but who cares, I can get into the tennis quickly. Margaret Court Arena was packed today with Aussie tennis players in the line-up. No chance of getting into those matches. For me, it feels absolutely silly to be queuing up to watch players that I’m not really a huge fan of – Nishikori, Monfils? No, thanks. I would have really liked to experience the atmosphere in Margaret Court Arena for following an Australian player for once, but it was not to be.

Instead it was a day out in the smaller courts for the most part, cheering on, or watching more low profile players. I went out to see Philipp Petzschner, who was playing against Milos Raonic, one of those frequently hyped players. Petzschner’s probably the only player on tour to wear the long socks. I think he must have only recently started doing it this year, or either I can’t remember (a bit of Google research indicates he only started doing so in 2012). Both players approached this match in a very aggressive manner, ensuring that above all, they wouldn’t engage in any overly long rallies. I liked that Petzschner came into the net quite frequently, serving and volleying, and finishing many points up there.

Despite all the hype about Raonic, I’ve decided yet again that I’m really not at all interested in him. The way he approaches his game seems very 90s-esque, with the short rallies, big game, big forehand and risk taker attitude, not only for the sake of creating opportunities but to save energy. Perhaps it’s reminiscent of Pete Sampras, not that I have much memory of him. It’s more like what I’ve heard about him, from commentators. Petzschner is playing with a similar attitude of not trying to engage in any rallies, and I don’t like it. I like the generation of Nadal, Djokovic and Murray. Great shotmakers without compromising consistency. It just doesn’t look impressive to me, not being consistent, and playing like this clearly requires a strong reliance on serve to make up for all those cheap errors, so I’ve decided to switch courts to something else. Petzschner might have taken a set, but Raonic was the far more solid player, and also a better server so always looked to have the advantage, I thought.

I couldn’t get into Tipsarevic’s match, so I settled on watching Marcel Granollers playing against Frederico Gil. Not exactly the most appealing match on paper, but somehow the intimate view makes it all look more impressive, the way both players are competing hard, constructing their points and basically striking the ball impressively (within their limitations, that is). The first thing that stands out to anyone watching is the Granollers grunt. He basically grunts loudly on every shot, while not really doing anything special with the ball. It’s very misleading, because it makes it look like he is hitting the ball harder than he really is.

When I first walked into the match, Granollers was a break down, but he was still competing and trying very hard. Grunting loudly tends to give that impression, but also his body language was still very positive. Even when he went down two breaks, he was still quite enthusiastic about trying to get one of those breaks back! He did end up getting one break back, and I did enjoy watching his determination to get to every ball, even if it looks like the point has been practically lost. That’s the thing I have been surprised about these few days, how some players can get to a shot that they’ve only just managed to reach by slicing underneath it just before the end of its bounce, then somehow turn a point from an impossible losing position to end up winning it. It’s amazing. Granollers does that quite a lot, as he likes to get down low and dig balls back. He doesn’t give up on shots. Another example is seeing awesome defensive lobs that completely reset a point – another favourite of mine watching live tennis.

It felt like watching a claycourt match of patient point construction, using the angles frequently to open up the court, and finally coming into the net when there was an opportunity to. It also had that claycourt mentality of trying to outmanoeuvre opponents rather than hitting winners through them. It was enjoyable to watch. But it also meant that both players were somewhat limited in their shotmaking, not as capable of changing directions and going down-the-lines as the better players. Also, not that capable of changing the pace. Whenever they went down-the-line, it was often to move the ball around from side-to-side so it went much higher over the net, and was hit as a safe shot. Gil was clearly the more aggressive player of the two. The big difference in this match was Gil’s forehand which he can hit inside out extremely well, and also he can increase the pace on it.

Sometimes Granollers has the ability of adding an extra dimension to his game, by coming into the net and mixing things up, but it didn’t seem to work well for him here, and he got discouraged sticking to a more predictable game. When Gil leaked some errors in the second set, Granollers took advantage of it but Gil cleaned up his game late in the third set, just in time for the crucial part of the set. There were a lot of people coming and going in this match, just taking a peek than leaving, as if it were of no interest to them. Later on, there became a more vocal group of people supporting Gil. He noticed them, and started directing his fist pumps over there, which was nice, I thought.

Nearing the match’s completion, I headed out of Melbourne Park for a break. I can’t really understand the weather, or how it feels sometimes. When I arrived, I was sure it was a nice, cool day with a breeze, and it still was even walking around the grounds. But whenever I get to those showcourts, to those seats which have heat reflecting on them, then when I sit down and the sun seems to be going straight to my pants and heating them up, somehow it just gets much hotter. I walked along the river, and I was reminded, that the weather is actually perfectly fine outside. But it’s always worse in the stadium courts, on the seats, where the tennis is being played…

After the quick break, I went back into the grounds. I couldn’t get into Gasquet’s match, because it was full. I couldn’t get into Margaret Court Arena. If there are Australians playing, you can be sure that the stadium will end up being full. So I went to Court 6, to watch Dominika Cibulkova against Greta Arn. I wasn’t really interested in that. I was just waiting for Simon’s match against Benneteau to get underway. I wasn’t expecting that much of a wait, but there was so much choking and errors all over the place that they took ages to finish their match. It went to 10-8 in the third set. Finally Arn took it, when Cibulkova was in the lead so many times I think.

It was then time for Gilles Simon and Julien Benneteau to get on court. Two Frenchmen playing against each other. They walked out on court, almost walking right next to each other, whereas usually one is far in front or behind the other player when they get on court for matches. I found this match to be incredibly fascinating, since they probably know each other’s game inside out, so I would have found it hard to believe that the match would simply be a case of “I’m going to play my own game.”

As the match begun, both players were exchanging light rallies with each other, almost as if they were just practicing except hitting with better accuracy. Target practice perhaps. They were both hitting the ball incredibly soft, nowhere near as hard as they’re capable of. It was very strange. I tried to watch for the subtle changes of pace, or figure out what they were trying to achieve with this tactic. Well, for Simon, it probably wasn’t really a tactic, but what about what Benneteau was doing? He had probably played a practice set against him before and noticed that going all out aggressively wasn’t working.

It was funny, because early on, I wasn’t really sure what Benneteau or Simon were trying to do. Lull their opponents into sleep, or hit a crappy short ball to bring them to the net and hit the pass? The more I watched, the more I could see looking back that the first set was kind of a warm-up of things to come.

Benneteau wasn’t having enough success with this very, very careful aggression. Simon served for the first set, but couldn’t convert. That’s when Benneteau started stepping in on the backhand to take it earlier and hitting it down-the-line more often, coming into the net far more often, and I think that was basically the turning point of a match. Coming into the net doesn’t only change that aspect of the game, but it changes the baseline aspect too. Benneteau’s play from the baseline started to become more confident with clear intent, unlike Simon who primarily stuck on the baseline.

Simon started muttering a lot of things to his coach from midway in the second set onwards. I have no idea about what, but I can’t really understand what he would have to complain about. He could either just change what he’s currently doing, or just move on with it. I guess he could have been complaining that he was making too many errors (surely the worst thing for him!), even though he wasn’t making that many. But maybe it was a bit more than usual for his standards. From then onwards, I noticed that he was flattening out his forehand more, which was good.

He played such a good second set tie-break to start with. He put more penetration on his forehand, started hitting deeper and refused to give much opportunity for Benneteau to create anything. But Benneteau created a few chances for himself at the net, and Simon dumped a forehand into the net on a very long rally on set point. There was a choke from both players – a double fault from Benneteau on his first set point, and also a double fault from Simon late in the tie-break. But Benneteau also hit two aces/service winners in that crucial moment, and ended up going up two sets to love. The third set was a massive concentration lapse from him, then it was getting late and I really wanted to leave by then.

It was my first time watching a night match outside of Margaret Court Arena, and it certainly is a much more quiet experience out there. The lighting is poor outside of the court, so it’s dark near the stands and there is a lot of space around you, where you can see that not much is going on. There were birds flying around in the sky, and sometimes they would land on the court in changeovers. Ball kids had to chase them away. I could hear noise from everywhere. The support for Lleyton Hewitt in his match against Andy Roddick on Rod Laver Arena was probably most distracting of all. Then you could hear the noise from Troicki’s five setter, the umpires calling out scores everywhere. You just start to get this sense or feeling that everywhere else is more exciting than here, though I don’t think it necessarily was, it was just the impression.

After the first two sets, many people left their seats. I stayed until the end of the third set. I would be willing to bet that by the time they got to the fifth set, the atmosphere was probably dead and gone completely quiet. At the time I was there, it was sparsely populated, though it felt like everyone that was still left was cheering for Simon. They wouldn’t even clap when Benneteau hit a great approach and volley. I clapped for Benneteau. I don’t know why these sorts of things happen at the Australian Open. I just thought all good shots should be applauded. Granollers didn’t get much in his match either.

Australian Open 2012 – Day 3 Blog

I’m back now from the Australian Open, procrastinating about writing a blog entry because I’m feeling so crazy, and full of a wide range of emotions. I just got back from watching the five set thriller between David Nalbandian and John Isner. Drama overload. I feel like how Nalbandian must have felt when he threw his racquet in disgust after losing the match that got away from him. I could have thrown a racquet myself to relieve some frustration.

I’m going to do things backwards here today. Let’s just get it out of the way, and while the drink I have in my hand is still taking some effect. I thought that Nalbandian’s performance today was one of the most enjoyable I’ve seen live from him, for several reasons, despite the result. He appeared to be highly motivated the whole time, and his brain was switched on, in thinking mode the whole time. He played purposeful tennis. He cared about every point he was playing, but it didn’t seem manufactured like he was trying to put his opponent off, or convince himself that he was doing great, like what the WTA players tend to do. Just a whole lot of little things here and there like assertive hand gestures and/or silent fist pumps. I get a very good view of that, from where I’m sitting in the third row.

There was a special atmosphere to this match. They both seemed very eager to win. I guess it started with Nalbandian’s first loss of serve in the first set, where he hit the ball to the other side of the court in the direction of where Isner was standing. Isner glanced at him, not at all impressed. The battle was on.

Isner didn’t appear to be too confident from the baseline to start with though. He avoided backhands like the plague and managed to turn them into forehands relatively often. He was hesitant to enter any long exchanges and therefore ended up prematurely coming to the net, only to get passed all the time. This was playing right into Nalbandian’s hands, who has awesome passing shots, particularly the forehand angle crosscourt which he used quite frequently and the lob. It didn’t matter if Nalbandian was on the run, stretching and just bunting back a slice. If he got another shot at it afterwards, he’d win the point - somehow.

With live tennis, all court exchanges are particularly fun to watch, and these rallies often contained rapid fire exchanges, running all over the court and nice touch from Nalbandian. I should also mention that in this match, the players managed to make an impressive three under-the-leg shots, and zero failed under-the-leg shots. Nalbandian won a lot of points with dropshots and lobs, and the touch that he possesses is 100 times better than Isner’s, who was an embarrassment everytime he hit a dropshot. Still I had a bad feeling that these dropshots could harm Nalbandian towards the end, just because in my own experience playing tennis, dropshots are absolutely awful if you play them too often, and that’s what ended up happening. (I once made a comeback from 4-0 down to beat someone who hit dropshot after dropshot). There was more to this though, as Isner was cramping in the fifth set.

I really enjoyed the first set, but in the second set, Isner smartened up his game, staying back on the baseline more often, and using his big forehand instead, which would be how I’d recommend him to play if I was coaching him. The outcome of the next few sets was heavily dependent on second serves and how frequently they’d need to rely on them, both from Isner and Nalbandian. I don’t think either of them had much success on second serves, but I don’t really know as I don’t have the access to statistics. Isner didn’t really get much of an upper hand in the rallies but he crushed Nalbandian’s second serve, particularly off the forehand.

Nalbandian’s shot selection and accuracy was a pleasure to watch. It was such a contrast to watching Del Potro earlier in the day, where power is first, and accuracy is second (and not always necessary). I love it when every shot he hits is purposeful and deliberate, and it requires a certain mindset and mental attitude that is not always present that day in his matches. Sometimes he only showcases it on big points in matches, but hardly ever on regular points, but here he did on a more regular basis.

On the big points, he’d step it up even more to a whole new level. I don’t remember which set it was. I think it was the second or third set where Nalbandian had to save break points. On the big point, he made every intention of ensuring that every shot he hit was to a safe spot where Isner couldn’t hurt him, to his backhand. He’d give it extra air over the net, to make sure that he wouldn’t miss it, then once when he had the opening, he’d pull the trigger down-the-line or follow it into the net. I thought that was a very interesting lesson on how to play a big point, how to make a calculated risk. Anyone that tells you that it’s all about being brave on a big point is making it sound all too simple. No matter how well Nalbandian is hitting the ball, it looks completely deliberate and smart, rather than just trying to crush a groundstroke. Again, watching Del Potro play earlier made that a bit more obvious than it would have already been.

Nalbandian winning the third set was also due to a slight lapse in concentration from Isner, in the opening game. He missed quite a lot of first serves, and made some ugly errors. The third set was highly competitive, with many closely contested games despite it eventually going to a tie-break. Isner’s serve was amazing in the tie-break. He got a free point off it every single time. Even Nalbandian stepped up his serve in the tie-break as well, getting more first serves in than usual, but Isner had one opportunity and he took it by going after Nalbandian’s serve to take the fourth set.

Nalbandian bounced back well in the fifth set to play some awesome tennis, the best of the match from him I thought. Knocking groundstrokes into corners and coming into the net to finish it off. Pretty much winning every rally in emphatic fashion. Isner was struggling physically early on, before the adrenaline started kicking in, and Nalbandian should have taken advantage of it. He had played so well, but just couldn’t get that one extra point when he needed it to convert it into a break. Isner continued to pounce on Nalbandian’s second serve. There was one game at 4-3 where Isner had chances to break, due to all those first serves missed, and Nalbandian managed to dig back some very aggressive returns to turn the points into his favour. Some of those break points he saved would have been just as good as the match points he saved against Hewitt last year. That was the point where I thought – it’s the fifth set but Nalbandian is moving better than he ever did to start with. I think because it was an important point, and he didn’t need to conserve energy anymore.

The fifth set started to really stress me out, because despite Nalbandian playing at such a high level early on, all it meant was that the set was building up to be a potential lost opportunity. Not converting on Isner’s physical problems at the start of the fifth set. After the first few games, the adrenaline started kicking in and Isner started moving better, and more importantly serving better. Then he got cramps after Nalbandian’s bathroom break (which I briefly wondered whether it was strategic or not). More evidence there that Nalbandian should be winning, but he wasn’t. Some people in the crowd were cheering for Marcos Baghdatis, during the break, who was meant to be playing afterwards. The longer the match went on, the noisier the crowd got, with shouting out comments and getting involved (the match was already a full house to start with).

After the cramping, Nalbandian started to win most baseline rallies, but as the point got more important, the more effort Isner summoned from within himself to manage to serve an ace. That’s the dangerous thing about cramping opponents. They can appear to be so wounded, but whenever it gets more important, they put in more effort, they get themselves through the pain barrier and run anyway. Isner served the aces when he needed to, and he ran enough when he needed to. He anticipated Nalbandian’s dropshots to break serve to win the match, and he ran far more than he did on a less important point. Those dropshots and lobs might have won Nalbandian the first set, but it was his undoing in the final set.

Nalbandian played all the big points well, but there was one which he choked away at 8-8 on break point. If there was one point I’d look back on, it’d be that one where he set up the point completely in his control, probably thought he would win it about 5 shots in before he even hit the final backhand. He had a crosscourt backhand to get Isner out of position and hit it long by several metres. He eventually got to break point after that, and that was where the drama began of the umpire overruling the service fault and then Nalbandian taking too long, and eventually not being able to challenge it. Regardless of whether that was a poor decision or not, perhaps Nalbandian had it coming to him, with the way he has been treating challenges over the years. Throughout the match, I saw him putting up his finger several times and glancing around, only for it not to end up being a challenge. It’s very confusing. I don’t think it was even necessarily a factor in his loss of serve in the next game. He didn’t play it that horribly – just not strategically well, with those dropshots.

So that was the end of the match, and there was no way I was staying to watch Marcos Baghdatis without taking a single break or getting out of my seat. Going to the Australian Open by yourself sucks, in that you can’t leave at all for certain matches, otherwise you’ll lose your seat. I already stayed there without leaving for 5 hours or so, so it was definitely time to go home.

Before that, I watched some of Francesca Schiavone’s match against Romini Oprandi, the battle of the Italians. It was nice to see women’s players hitting with topspin, rather than everything so flat and one-dimensional. It is easier to generate angles when hitting with topspin. This could have been better than it was, but Schiavone was shanking her backhand all over the place. She does have a massive windup on the shot, and it looked like it was causing her problems. She hit three shanks to lose the match in the second set.

The first proper match of the day I watched was between Juan Martin Del Potro and Blaz Kavcic. This is the second time now that I’ve watched Del Potro where he’s started off the match by shanking forehands. It seems like it takes him a while to properly warm up on the shot, before finding some form, because of his huge preparation. Del Potro is such a heavyweight. His groundstrokes are so impressive. He thumps every shot, but is it really as impressive as it looks? It’s true that the average groundstroke of Del Potro is better than the average groundstroke of Kavcic, but Del Potro really wasn’t making the best of his ground game here. Instead, he relied on his raw, natural ability to hit the ball hard, and that because his average shot was better than Kavcic’s, he was more likely to win a baseline rally.

The match in the first set had a familiar feeling to it, the same feeling that I get watching Del Potro on TV, thinking, ‘wow, that was a great shot’, only for the rally to extend so many more shots with more of the same thing. So why is it that Del Potro hits all these great shots, but his opponents get them back, and he has to keep repeating the same thing over and over? It’s a nice display of patience, but he’s not following it up well. Surely he could make use of the net at some stage. I don’t think he made it there at all during the match. Kavcic would have done better if he didn’t double fault so much.

Also, Del Potro’s accuracy seemed to get worse as the match went on. It could be because he made a few too many errors to start with, and became discouraged that his accuracy was very poor in the second set. Kavcic had an early break on Del Potro, but leaked too many errors towards the end of the set. He picked up his game in the second set. I really liked Kavcic’s attitude. He appeared to be completely determined to chase after every shot, and to hang with Del Potro (whereas Nalbandian and Isner were being much more selective about which shots to chase after). In the second set, Kavcic started grunting louder which got many people imitating him and finding it all amusing. It really wasn’t a good match from Del Potro at all. I left after Del Potro took a two sets to love lead, as I really needed to get a break from the heat at some point during the day.

Australian Open 2012 – Day 2 Blog

I don’t really seem to notice much anymore nowadays at Melbourne Park. This year was the first year that I really felt like the surroundings were incredibly familiar, about as close as can be to returning to a second home for me, considering that I don’t really have a second home. I try to look around to see what draws my attention, but nothing does really.

I walk to Melbourne Park these days rather than taking the ridiculously crowded tram, and walk through the ANZ queue, where if they happen to be your bank of choice, then you can get in far quicker than anyone else. If you’re an ANZ customer, you could also get a free ride on those pedestrian bikes, or whatever you call them, but I haven’t managed to ask for one yet.

After an incredibly quick journey into the Melbourne Park grounds, I've decided to watch Richard Gasquet play against Andreas Seppi. I hadn’t seen Gasquet for ages, so I don’t really know what has been going on with him lately. I wasn’t really sure what to expect except that at least maybe the tennis would look pretty, even if not all that great.

I started watching with Seppi up a break at 2-1, which is where it all started to go downhill for him from that point on. Seppi is supposed to be a consistent player, but he missed far too many shots overhitting while not really having a proper plan on how to win points.

Watching Seppi play, it probably takes a huge mental and physical effort to keep up that tennis that he plays, not possessing any reliable shot to win points quickly. Pretty much the only weapon Seppi has is that angled off-forehand that he likes to use to open up the court, but that requires many repeated forehands to get the right result. He’s surely got to enter matches thinking, ‘I’ve got to be patient. I’ve got to be prepared to stay on court all day rallying.’ Just that idea would probably be enough to depress me, and to completely self-destruct in the match.

Okay, so Seppi did self-destruct a bit to start with. It was as if he was caught in two minds as to what he should do, so he’d miss these shots trying to do something with the ball but without really going for it. Throughout the match, I hardly saw Seppi inject any change of pace. If he can’t do it, then that’s a huge disadvantage, because so many other players can hit the ball harder than he does. Gasquet kind of went along with him, and they both exchanged medium paced rallies, while also displaying extremely poor accuracy. I do like consistency, but I wasn't impressed with Gasquet hitting the majority of his shots several metres or more away from the lines (my knowledge of metres from my viewing distance is too terrible to make a good estimate). He has this weapon that he's famous for: the backhand, but what good was it when he rarely had the guts to go for it down-the-line? I am guessing that this shot started to pop up more in the fourth set though, when I disappeared.

So Gasquet won the first set through being more consistent, and through a very brief moment of nice transition play after going a break up. They both struggled with their serves, and I’m pretty sure Gasquet’s serving was much worse than I could remember in past matches watching him live. He used to be able to get more cheap points on his first serve. Maybe that will pick up again sometime.

Seppi cleaned up his game in the second set, while Gasquet continued to play tentatively. Gasquet appeared to have continual problems trying to bring out that confident side of him. I only saw glimpses of it in the first two sets. I kept hoping that it would start to come out eventually, but it was such a slow and gradual process that it was frustrating and painful to watch. When Gasquet increases the pace of his shots and hits through the ball, like he does occasionally in this match, it is so much easier for him to finish off points, and gives him many more options. To finish off points at the net, open up the court, etc.

He didn’t really appear to be enjoying himself I thought. He does generally wince quite a lot anyway, or perhaps it’d be more accurate to call it a twitch. But it did give the overall impression that he was basically battling it out for the win, and the only reaction that he would get once completed would be a sense of relief that it was all over. I didn’t stay for the end of the match, since it was quite a frustrating match, so I can only imagine what happened in the end.

I meant to watch Youzhny’s match, but I thought it was on the wrong end of the grounds near Hisense Arena, so while I was already there, I decided to watch Janko Tipsarevic play against Dmitry Tursunov. There were heaps of people wearing shirts supporting Serbia, Serbian flags, there was a tiny group of Serbian supporters there, yet not really a whole lot of cheering. I wasn’t even sure whether Tipsarevic was pleased with his small band of supporters, since I think they were the main reason why Carlos Ramos kept reminding the crowd to only make noise after the point had been completed.

By the way, it wasn’t very nice of them to put Tipsarevic, a new top 10 player into a tiny little court like that, though admittedly there were even a few spare seats. I sat on this very nice seat which was directly in line with where the players are generally standing / moving when on the baseline. Whenever Tipsarevic was on that side, I had a great view of his wild, athletic movements. He throws himself into every shot, whether defensively or offensively, bending down low to hit low backhands, getting up high to hit high backhands. The majority of players would probably only have one backhand that they’d try to replicate all the time, while Tipsarevic improvises, slides and stretches to the ball. It’s awesome to watch, and also looks like an injury waiting to happen, because the movements aren’t predictable or following some sort of textbook action. There was one entertaining point where Tipsarevic was defending every shot of Tursunov’s as if his life depended on it, where I thought, wouldn’t this just be perfect if the match continued like that? (even though Tipsarevic is also excellent at being aggressive)

Unlike the previous match, both players maintained an aggressive mindset here. What changed from time to time here was their mindset on errors. Sometimes they were very generous with their errors, then when the important points came, they’d try to focus a little harder to make sure they wouldn’t lose the point with a stupid error. The second set tie-break was the epic point of the match. Tursunov must have had around three set points to take a two sets to love lead, and if he had played one of those points equally as well as how he played to save set points or keep the tie-break going, then he would have won the set.

During the all-important second set, there were three cute little kids leaning over the net during the tie-break, saying things and putting up their banners. They pointed at the balls when Tursunov went to get one, but Tursunov kept his
concentration and didn’t look at them once. Tipsarevic was possibly struggling with the heat, pouring water over his head on many changeovers, and his movement generally became less explosive after the second set. He took an injury timeout at the start of the third set for a foot problem. His foot was already taped up.

Tursunov basically looks like a very well-trained tennis player. There is not much creativity or natural flair in his game. It just looks like he has spent a lot of hours bashing tennis balls to the point where he can make ball-bashing look like regular rallying. It’s impressive in a way, especially since Tursunov doesn’t just get his power off being big and tall. His forehand is the major weapon particularly hitting it inside out. Tursunov played a good match here. He just didn’t play the big points well enough. He could have so easily gone up two sets to love.

It had been a long day of tennis, so I kind of went on a mental walkabout for a while. I was standing and watching Radek Stepanek’s match against Nicolas Mahut, and Stepanek just fell over on his hand while getting wrong-footed. It looked painful at first, he called the trainer, but I don’t know whether it was one of those things that get painful then you can recover from afterwards. He seemed to be lacking the usual feel on his shots though. Mahut continued to put the pressure on Stepanek. I didn’t expect much from Mahut given his current form, but he played his usual game of being aggressive and serving-and-volleying. I think the plan worked well. Stepanek wasn’t allowed to dictate or control what he wants to do in the match. Therefore he looked pretty average, though he did make far more errors than usual. Maybe some were forced, some were not. I can’t say I was really paying full attention though. Everyone has lapses of concentration, not just the players…

But of course concentration returns for the more eagerly awaited match-ups, such as the night session on Margaret Court Arena between Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Denis Istomin. Watching Istomin play in Brisbane was the first time I was able to gain appreciation of him as a dangerous floater, and the main reason for this is just because he hits the ball incredibly hard and appears to have no noticeable weaknesses. He has a big serve, an excellent backhand which he isn’t afraid of taking up the line, and the forehand is also capable of doing damage. The night match confirmed that Istomin indeed does have a lot of weapons, and he even possesses a nice all-court game which wasn’t apparent until late in the second set.

Prior to the start of the match, there was a buzz and air of excitement surrounding Margaret Court Arena, the kind of atmosphere I had not yet seen before this year. When people come to see Tsonga, they expect to be entertained. Whereas for other players, they simply come to watch the match, and nothing more. The stadium was packed from the start of play. I managed to grab myself a front row spot, after someone left at the completion of the Kuznetsova match. When Tsonga started the match with a jump smash, the crowd erupted in a way not yet seen before. Tsonga is clearly perfect for the Margaret Court Arena night match slot.

After a while, the crowd settled into the match, realizing that this might not be as much of the Tsonga show as they thought it would be. Tsonga can be unique and exciting, but he primarily approached this match by staying on the baseline, trying to establish control with his serve and forehand. I’ve certainly seen him play better before. From this view, I can see that Tsonga has a good kick second serve, which moves around unpredictably after its bounce and can be difficult to return, at least more so than many other players.

The match was a showcase of impressive power and consistency, both players getting into extended rallies while playing aggressively. I kept hoping that Tsonga would step it up another level, bringing out the killer forehand and moving in forwards, but it didn’t really happen until Istomin did exactly what I thought Tsonga would do late in the second set. I really like all-court tennis, so I started to enjoy the match a lot more. I like great shots to be taken advantage of, and constructed to completion, rather than getting ruined and lost in the middle of a long rally. Apart from that, it also looks clever, like a series of intentional shots strung together to get the right result.

Once Istomin started playing better, Tsonga also rose to the challenge, suddenly needing to make more urgent shot selections, or needing to hit passing shots. One advantage that Tsonga has over Istomin is that he can generate much better angles on the forehand, and he was able to use this to open up the court. In the last few games of the fourth set, there were some awesome exchanges containing dropshots, lobs, angled running shots, and there was one dive volley in there. This was exactly what the crowd had come to see.

Istomin must have won himself some fans too, even though some of them probably came to cheer for him originally just to balance out the huge amount of Tsonga fans out there. Serving to stay in the match, there were so many people cheering for Denis. There were also a huge amount of people cheering whenever Tsonga took his shirt off.

I’d say Istomin’s peak form was somewhere during the end of the second set to early in the third set, then the errors started creeping up and his choices to approach the net became more suspect. There were a few moments of self-destruction towards the end. Tsonga served a double fault and made a horrible error to lose serve when serving for the match, then Istomin gave away about three points on his serve to lose the match. Still, people stood up clapping when the match was done, in appreciation of what they had seen that night. It was a good, challenging first round match. Istomin put in a great performance for the most part. Tsonga needed to raise his level, and he did.

By the way, I don’t have any photos because I forgot to bring my USB cable that connects my camera to my laptop. It will have to come later, I suppose.