New tennis website

30 Jun

Hi to my lovely readers,

I will no longer be posting blogs on this website as I now contribute to a new website, Shrewd Tennis.

Several posts about Wimbledon are online now. Please take a look and keep reading.

Schroeds

A review of the men’s draw at the 2012 French Open

1 Jun

The men’s draw at the French Open is fairly simple to analyze considering the dominance of the top three players and will make for some classic matches from the semi finals onwards. Each of them has a unique opportunity to make history. The world number one, Novak Djokovic, could become the first men’s player since Rod Laver, to hold all four majors at the same time. Rafael Nadal – by winning – could better Bjorn Borg’s record for the most titles at the French Open, while a more unlikely win by Roger Federer, could result in him adding to his record number of grand slam titles to 17.

Andy Murray has not quite been in the league of the top players of late and as such cannot seriously be considered a title contender. His section of the draw is however the most interesting as it also contains David Ferrer who has been incredibly consistent of late, particularly on clay.

The main consideration when viewing the quarters containing the top three players, is which players have any chance at all to prevent them from reaching the semi’s and determining the most interesting matches that might occur in each section.

 

Djokovic’s quarter

Djokovic is seeded to meet the top ranked Frenchman, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter finals. Both players will however have to face tough opponents in both the third and fourth round. Djokovic seems set to meet Fernando Verdasco in the fourth round. While Verdasco is sure to be confident following his win over Nadal on the blue clay in Madrid, he will probably be unable to pull off an upset as Djokovic has been incredible in grand slam play of late, while Verdasco has been fairly inconsistent.

Tsonga could participate in one of the matches of the tournament against the winner of the third round match between Stanislas Wawrinka versus Gilles Simon. These three players are arguably the players in this quarter most able to provide Djokovic with a stern challenge. Unfortunately only one will have the opportunity to face Djokovic.

Player most likely to upset Djokovic: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Best potential match in this section: Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Gilles Simon 

Djokovic’s most likely quarter final opponent: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

If this encounter is realized, I fully expect Djokovic to progress over the Frenchman with some comfort. He has truly been a great number one player and although his form is not what it was a year ago, is still quite incredible. He is unlikely to lose to a player better suited to grass or hard courts like Tsonga.

 

Federer’s quarter

Federer’s quarter contains grand slam winner, Juan Martin del Potro and finalist Tomas Berdych. While both these players have gained wins over Federer in the past, they are hardly at their best currently, with Del Potro dealing with injuries yet again while Berdych would be lucky to come through his third round match against the top ranked South African, Kevin Anderson. Either way, I don’t foresee either of them beating Federer as he has consistently been the second best player on clay in the world for the past several years when considering performances at Roland Garros and clay court title wins. I fully expect to see Federer gain straightforward wins in his third round match against Nicolas Mahut and likely fourth round opponent Lukas Kubot.

Player most likely to upset Federer: Thomas Berdych 

Best potential match in this section: Thomas Berdych vs. Kevin Anderson

Federer’s most likely quarter final opponent: Juan Martin del Potro

If Del Potro were in perfect health I would expect him to give Federer a considerable challenge. He is however battling injury and moves somewhat haphazardly on the dirt. Combine this with Federer’s great play lately – he has a better win-loss record since the US Open last year than any other player – and Federer should be heavily favoured to win this match without too much drama.

 

Murray’s quarter

Murray is the player seeded to reach the semi finals that is most likely to be upset before reaching that stage of the tournament. In order to reach the semi finals he would likely have to overcome the Frenchman Richard Gasquet in the fourth round followed by David Ferrer in the quarter finals. Considering Murray’s back problems which many thought would lead to him retiring in his second round match and the tough matches he has against Gasquet in the past, he could very well lose this match. Alternately Ferrer who has been in magnificent form throughout the clay court season – only losing to Nadal – would have a very good opportunity to reach the semi finals over Murray at the French Open.

Player most likely to upset Murray: David Ferrer

Best potential match in this section: Richard Gasquet vs.  Andy Murray

Murray’s most likely quarter final opponent: David Ferrer

 Murray has been injury-stricken of later and struggling to play at his best. In comparison David Ferrer has been consistently striking the ball incredibly well, he also naturally moves very well on the clay courts at Roland Garros. As such, I anticipate Ferrer stealing a rare upset of one of the top four seeds here at the French Open.

 

Nadal’s quarter

The player seeded to meet Nadal in the quarter final is the Serbian number two, Janko Tipsarevic.  This seems likely to be realized as Nadal is virtually unbeatable at Roland Garros. Tipsarevic should be able to overcome his likely fourth round opponent, Nicholas Almagro, although I do expect that matchup to have the potential to be a closely contested matter.

Other significant players in this section are Milos Raonic and the clay court expert, Juan Monaco. These two players meet in the third round with the winner set to meet Nadal in the fourth round. Raonic is one of the best up-and-coming players on the tour with a throwback big-serve-and-volleying-ability style of play. Yet Monaco has superior abilities on clay. Their match is sure to be one of the best third round encounters at the French Open. The match winner could also go on to provide at least somewhat of a challenge to Nadal.

Player most likely to upset Nadal: Milos Raonic

Best potential match in this section: Milos Raonic vs. Juan Monaco

Nadal’s most likely quarter final opponent: Janko Tipsarevic

Nadal is by far the best player around on clay. I cannot imagine him losing to any player in his section of the draw and actually expect him to win in routine manner against whomever he plays in the quarter finals.

 

Semi final 1: Novak Djokovic vs. Roger Federer

Semi final 2: David Ferrer vs. Rafael Nadal

 Nadal as mentioned will be virtually unbeatable in this tournament. He has beaten Ferrer with some ease several times in the recent past and I expect this match to reflect a similar score line should it come to be. The anticipated Djokovic versus Federer match could be quite an amazing match. They have played several times at the majors over the past year with each player having opportunities to win. This match ought to be the same. The result will be determined by the composure of the players on the big points. Should Djokovic win I expect him to go on to complete the Novak Slam, while a win for Federer, would probably result in Nadal winning in the final and bettering Borg’s record of six French Open titles.

 

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A review of the women’s draw at Roland Garros after two rounds

1 Jun

I have been jumping up-and-down for the past few weeks loudly informing everyone and anyone that the French Open is about to start; while I have in recent years been particularly appreciative of men’s tennis, it is seeing how the women’s draw pans out, that I’ve been most looking forward to.

While women’s tennis has in the recent past been plagued by irregularity and the inability of the top players to perform well consistency, this trend seems to have been bucked in 2012. The top three players have been dominating for the most part, with Victoria Azarenka carrying a very impressive win-loss ratio for the year of 35-3. Maria Sharapova has won several titles, while Agnieszka Radwanska has 36 wins thus far this year. Other than the top three, the sole player viewed as one of the dominant players prior to the French Open was Serena Williams.

She had a 17-0 record on clay coming into the French Open – hands down the best lead-up to the tournament of any player, male or female. Yet she lost in the first round to a French player, Virginie Razzano, currently ranked outside of the top 100, resulting in a draw that likely favours the top three women.

Siberian-born Sharapova is the player who likely benefits the most from Serena’s loss as she would have met the top ranked American in the quarter finals had they both progressed to that point. Since Sharapova habitually loses in emphatic fashion to Serena each time they meet, this is a major boost to her title chances as she will not have to face her Achilles hill in order to win the title. When considering her form during the clay court season, Sharapova – with her wins in Rome and Stuttgart – deserves to now be considered the favourite.

Other players with a significant chance to win include the world number one Azarenka, who has blown to smithereens the image of inconsistency that has dogged the number one players on the WTA tour the past few years. Add a fairly easy draw and she has to be considered a serious title threat. Radwanska’s movement on the dirt and ability to consistently play at a high level means that she too could make serious inroads into the second week of Roland Garros. Defending champion Li Na did not look to be in great shape coming into the French Open, but her ability to move on the dirt and love of the Roland Garros courts, means she cannot be discounted from defending her title. Her showing in the first two rounds has been impeccably and quite befitting a defending champion. A number of seeds in her section of the draw lost early – further opening up the draw for Na.

Were Caroline Wozniacki not seeded to meet Sharapova in the quarter finals, I would have considered her a title contender; I cannot however see her beating Sharapova and then going on to win against two more great players in one week. There are of course a few other players such as Sam Stosur, former champ Ana Ivanovic and the top German player, Angelique Kerber, whose title chances ought to be considered too.

While the top three players are favoured to win, there are many other players capable of winning seven matches at Roland Garros and walking away with the title. These are my picks of the players I expect to progress from each quarter.

The top quarter

Azarenka was a few points away from exiting the French Open in her first round match against the Italian veteran, Alberta Brianti. She however managed to turn things around and pull off a fairly impressive comeback victory and followed it up with an emphatic win in the second round. Her draw from here seems fairly simple, with Dominika Cibulkova a potential fourth round opponent. The 5-foot-3 Slovakian has however had a season blighted by inconsistency and I expect Azarenka to ease to a comfortable win over her to reach the quarter finals.

In the other section of this quarter, Sam Stosur is the definite favourite to progress. The Australian player is quite possibly the best player on clay that remains in the draw. While her third round match against Nadia Petrova could be a tricky one, the Russian player’s form on clay is not on par to what is has been in the past. Stosur’s serve and confidence ought to dispel any challenge provided by Petrova. As such, it is likely that the players seeded to reach the quarter finals in this part of the draw, will do so.

Quarter final 1: Victoria Azarenka vs. Sam Stosur

If this quarter final is realized, I expect a very tough battle between the two most recent grand slam winners to unfold. Azarenka holds a superior 6-0 head-to-head record over Stosur and with her greater run of form I expect her to overcome Stosur’s exemplary clay court abilities after a significant battle.

Semi finalist 1: Victoria Azarenka

The second quarter

The standout match of this quarter is the pending fourth round encounter between third seed Radwanska and former French Open champion, Ana Ivanovic. While recent statistics seem to indicate that Radwanka should be favoured to win and potentially go on to take the title, my dark horse for the title is Ivanovic. She has regained her confidence as a tennis player and as such I believe her capable of taking Radwanska – a delicate player of the ball against whom Ivanovic will have to employ sound strategy – out of the tournament.
In the other section of this quarter, Marion Bartoli was the top seed. Since she has however made an early exit from the French Open, I expect tenth seed Angelique Kerber, who has developed into a top ten player at alarming pace over the past six months, to comfortably reach her second grand slam quarter final.

Quarter final 2: Ana Ivanovic vs. Angelique Kerber

Should this prediction be accurate, I anticipate Ivanovic to yet again be a semi finalist at Roland Garros, based purely on her status as a more experienced player, particularly on clay and in the second week of a grand slam, as their games are very closely matched. She should be able to maintain her composure and put in a sound performance to better the top ranked German player who has only reached the top 10 very recently. As a side note – if Radwanska comes through instead of Ivanovic, I expect she will be largely unstoppable and too much of a force to deal with for Kerber.

Semi finalist 2: Ana Ivanovic

Edit – following Ivanovic and Radwanska’s third round losses to Sara Errani and former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova respectively,  I suspect the quarter final will be contested by Kuznetsova and Kerber. Kuznetsova not only won against Radwanska, but quite honestly destroyed her. She will be difficult to beat if she continues playing as she did in that match. Iexpect she should be able to overcome Errani in the fourth round, while Kerber should reign supreme over Italian veteran Flavia Pennetta in the third and Petra Martic in the fourth.

Quarter final 2: Angelique Kerber vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova

Kerber has a great opportunity to progress to her second major semi final. The young German has consistently improved her game and is favoured by me to proceed over the inconsistent but more experience Russian.

Semi finalist 2: Angelique Kerber

The third quarter

The third quarter contains the two most recent French Open champions, Li Na and Francesca Schiavone; they could possibly meet in what would be an intriguing quarter final matchup since their styles of play differ so drastically. While Li Na is a ferocious and modern clean hitter of the ball, Schiavone is famed for her one handed backhand and aptitude at changing up a match with her ability to slice the ball. Schiavone has however had a horrid season and before having the opportunity to face Na, she would likely have to overcome Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova, in the round-of-16.

While a match between Na and Schiavone would make for entertaining viewing, I don’t expect the encounter to be realized as Kvitova should be able to stand as victor over the struggling Schiavone. Thus Kvitova versus Na is the likely quarter final match up from this division of the draw.

Quarter final 3: Li Na vs. Petra Kvitova

Prior to the start of Roland Garros 2012, I would have picked Kvitova to win this match with some ease, as her form – while by no means measuring up to her Wimbledon title run last year – has been superior to Na’s, who has seemingly accomplished very little since her win here last year. However since the start of the tournament Na has been hitting the ball incredibly well. As such, it is my prediction that the higher seeded player will lose, with the Chinese veteran progressing to the semi final.

Semi finalist 3: Li Na

The final quarter

The final quarter of the draw is perhaps the most fascinating section of the draw as it contains former world number ones, Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki, in addition to two great players with the potential to vie for grand slam titles in the near future in Anastacia Pavlyuchenkova and Julia Georges. Fourth round matchups between Sharapova and Pavlyuchenkova and Wozniacki and Georges seem quite likely. I favour the more experienced pair to proceed from these encounters into the quarter final. Sharapova’s game is developed far beyond Pavlyuchenkova’s and her mental resolve will also favour her against the younger Russian.

Georges versus Wozniacki has the potential to be a more closely contested battle. While neither is playing as well relative to the rest of the field coming into Roland Garros as a year ago, both are still some of the best young players on the tour. Wozniacki, without the pressure that followed her as world number one is who I favour to win this encounter as she will take advantage of the low expectations and beat a player who’s been off of her best of late.

Quarter final 4: Caroline Wozniacki vs. Maria Sharapova

It is my opinion that this potential encounter will be one of the better ones to occur during Roland Garros 2012. Sharapova has held the upper hand in matches against Wozniacki and as such I expect her to win, albeit in three tight sets. Sharapova of course also has a far superior record on clay courts in addition to the immense confidence she carries as a result of her recent climb up the rankings following several years of battling injuries on-and-off.

Semi finalist 4: Maria Sharapova

There are certainly some interesting days of tennis to come over the next week or so whether these picks pan out or not. In any event I will evaluate the state of the draw and the relative chance of each player remaining following the quarter finals. Check back for my analysis of the men’s draw later today.

Feel free to share your comments in the picks below. Share the blog entry by using the button below. @schroeds.

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