Wednesday, July 29, 2015

THANK YOU CITI OPEN - THE REAL BERNARD TOMIC 2015

If you google him, you'll read about a couple of school boy stunts that, if he'd never picked up a tennis racquet, you'd think little of it.  And if you search him on YouTube, the first clip you'll see is the now infamous one where he asks the umpire to ask his father to leave the court, and then thanks the umpire when he gives him a code violation for coaching.  Now there are about 1,000 reasons why that may be of interest to you, but if you've bothered to search clips of him I would implore you to go to the second clip - the one of his best points.  In it you'll see an array of shots, point constructions and a display of some of the best hands in tennis, against some of the best players in the world, over and over again.

This is the real Bernard Tomic - the player who won the Australian Open Juniors when he was 15 years old (yes 15 years old) and the US Open Juniors when he was 16 years old.  The Bernard Tomic that won Sydney in 2013, Bogota in 2014 and again in 2015...

To read the rest, go to The Tennis Column...

Sunday, July 26, 2015

THANK YOU CITI OPEN - WINNING (WITH BEAUTIFUL) UGLINESS

...In truth, tactically Gilbert was the Chris Evert of the men's tour, with less talent, and worse results of course - but strategically and tactically, they were mirror images.  Evert never appeared to have physical superiority, or even technical superiority - most of her opponents had more tools in the kit - but Evert's true special talent was the depth of the skills she did possess and her ability to make shallow the skills of her opponents.  The modern game suffers from a kind of fatal narcissism, where players all think their key to their success on the court is their own game.  They assume that because tennis is an individual sport, the last thing they have to worry about is the other guy on the court.  Fed by the paucity of quality coaching, where the "mental game", and it's ugly sister "belief", seem to be the focus, lost from the modern game is the art of strategy and tactical execution - in short, there are no more Brad Gilbert's in the men's game, and very few in the women's game....

To read the rest, go to The Tennis Column...

Monday, July 20, 2015

THANK YOU CITI OPEN - RICHARD GASQUET v MICHAEL LLODRA

...The best set of tennis I saw last year won't show up on the AT P's head to head records.  That's because it was a practice set at, hideaway on practice court 2, between Richard Gasquet and Michael Llodra.  And after the initial pleasure of watching an extended 30 minute warmup, I then witnessed one of the best sets of tennis I've ever seen.  Not only because Gasquet has one of the most beautiful backhands in tennis, and Llodra is one of the last bona fide serve and volleyers left in the game.  The set was extraordinary because the spirit of these two players, their trades plied at opposite ends of the tactical spectrum, is exactly the same - swashbucklers.  Not that the term isn't overly used...

...to read more go to The Tennis Column

Saturday, July 18, 2015

THANK YOU CITI OPEN - YANNICK NOAH 1985/1989

Other than my father, I'd never seen a black man playing tennis - and certainly not a black man like Yannick Noah.  At 6'4", wiry muscle, and legs that looked taller than me, I couldn't believe how perfect he looked.  His waist was small, but his shoulders broad.  His thighs scarcely contained the quadriceps that would launch him into the air on his infamous overhead, and the racquet looked more like a ping pong paddle in his hands, such was the efficacy with which he wielded his weapon of choice….


…A childhood hero is a childhood hero, and being six-inches from him was like being close enough to reach out and touch the sun, but I must admit, I was less impressed than I expected to be.  And as his practice session came to an end, just as I thought I would go home with nothing particularly interesting to tell my family about him, he did something that I'll never forget...

...read the rest at The Tennis Column

Thursday, July 16, 2015

THANK YOU CITI OPEN - BARRY MACKAY 1990

This is a piece I did on Barry MacKay, back in July of 2012, upon learning of his passing.  I repost it here as part of my series "Thank You Citi Open" where I recount tales of the personal history I have with one of the premier events on the ATP Tour.


...I'm sure there's some fellow out there that might have a bad thing to say about Barry Mackay, but I'm just as certain that he has long since forgiven him, such was the kindness and generosity that became as much his hallmark as that endearingly long face, booming voice, and broad shoulders that stood tall for years at tennis courts around the world.  

...Barry: "Boy, this outta be a good one yeah? Yannick Noah - any of you ever seem him play before?"
Ballkids: "No!"

Barry: "Oh, you're gonna enjoy it - he's a lot of fun. But hey, don't let him pull the ol' hot ball trick with you - you keep an eye out for that one!"

Ballkidssilence and blank stares

Barry: "You don't know about the hot ball?"

Ballkidsquizzical looks and more blank stares

Barry: "You ever notice how when a player's about to serve with new balls he always shows it to his opponent?  Well that's to keep from givin' em the ol' hot ball.  What you do is...


....to me, that's what made Barry MacKay so special, and why I'm so sorry to have heard of his passing.  Because there are a lot of people in tennis pretending to be nice guys - there's always a camera around when they're signing autographs or attending a charity, and it's all well and good if it helps their image...


To read the rest of it go to The Tennis Column...

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

THANK YOU CITI OPEN - GUILLERMO VILAS 1984

Everything about it was blistering hot - the seats, the air, the sidewalk, the parking lot - the kind of heat that makes you want to hide somewhere dark, the kind of heat that makes you feel that one more second of sunlight is going to put you over the edge of your sanity.  It affected everything we did - where we parked, the matches we chose to watch, where we sat in the stadium,  and how long we waited for autographs afterwards.  I had trouble...

Read the rest at The Tennis Column


I've just received word that I have been approved for press credentials at the Citi Open in Washington, DC, from August 1-9.  And during the tournament I'll be posting my impressions, and interviews, and images from the William H. Fitzgerald Tennis Center at 16th & Kennedy.  So be sure to check in daily to The Tennis Column for updates.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Roland Garros 2013 Men's Draw

Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1] v David Goffin (BEL)
Ivan Dodig (CRO) v Guido Pella (ARG)
Alex Kuznetsov (USA) [WC] v Lucas Pouille (FRA) [WC]
Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) [26] v Alejandro Falla (COL)

Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) [22] v Dmitry Tursunov (RUS)
Bernard Tomic (AUS) v Victor Hanescu (ROU)
Simone Bolelli (ITA) v Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE)
Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) [16] v Qualifier

Tommy Haas (GER) [12] v Guillaume Rufin (FRA)
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP) v Qualifier
Andrey Kuznetsov (RUS) v Ryan Harrison (USA)
John Isner (USA) [19] v Carlos Berlocq (ARG)

Mikhail Youzhny (RUS) [29] v Pablo Andujar (ESP)
Federico Delbonis (ARG) v Qualifier
Fernando Verdasco (ESP) v Marc Gicquel (FRA) [WC]
Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) [8] v Nicolas Mahut (FRA) [WC]

The top seed will advance here, but it won't be easy if the other players in this quarter deliver on their talent.

:: ::

Rafael Nadal (ESP) [3] v Daniel Brands (GER)
Martin Klizan (SVK) v Michael Russell (USA)
Lukas Rosol (CZE) v Qualifier
Fabio Fognini (ITA) [27] v Qualifier

Benoit Paire (FRA) [24] v Marcos Baghdatis (CYP)
Lukasz Kubot (POL) v Qualifier
Grega Zemlja (SLO) v Santiago Giraldo (COL)
Kei Nishikori (JPN) [13] Jesse Levine (CAN)

Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) [9] vThiemo De Bakker (NED)
Horacio Zeballos (ARG) v Qualifier
Kenny De Schepper (FRA) v Robin Haase (NED)
Jerzy Janowicz (POL) [21] v Albert Ramos (ESP)

Florian Mayer (GER) [28] v Denis Istomin (UZB)
Florent Serra [WC] (FRA) v Nikolay Davydenko (RUS)
Qualifier v Qualifier
Richard Gasquet (FRA) [7] v Sergiy Stakhovsky (UKR)

Rafa takes this without a whole lot of drama.

:: :: :: ::

Tomas Berdych (CZE) [5] v Gael Monfils (FRA) [WC]
Ernests Gulbis (LAT) v Rogerio Dutra Silva (BRA)
Igor Sijsling (NED) v Jurgen Melzer (AUT)
Tommy Robredo (ESP) [32] v Jurgen Zopp (EST)

Andreas Seppi (ITA) [20] v Leonardo Mayer (ARG)
Blaz Kavcic (SLO) v Qualifier
Martin Alund (ARG) v Edouard Roger-Vasselin (FRA)
Nicolas Almagro (ESP) [11] v Qualifier

Milos Raonic (CAN) [14] v Xavier Malisse (BEL)
Michael Llodra (FRA) v Qualifier
Evgeny Donskoy (RUS) v Qualifier
Kevin Anderson (RSA) [23] v Qualifier

Marcel Granollers (ESP) [31] v Feliciano Lopez (ESP)
Joao Sousa (POR) v Go Soeda (JPN)
Albert Montanes (ESP) v Qualifier
David Ferrer (ESP) [4] v Marinko Matosevic (AUS)

Berdych vs. Ferrer in the quarterfinal.

:: ::

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) [6] v Aljaz Bedene (SLO)
Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) v Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA)
Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) v Gilles Muller (LUX)
Jeremy Chardy (FRA) [25] v Benjamin Becker (GER)

Juan Monaco (ARG) [17] v Daniel Gimeno-Traver (ESP)
Viktor Troicki (SRB) v James Blake (USA)
Radek Stepanek (CZE) v Nick Kyrgios (AUS) [WC]
Marin Cilic (CRO) [10] v Philipp Petzschner (GER)

Gilles Simon (FRA) [15] v Lleyton Hewitt (AUS)
Adrian Mannarino (FRA) [WC] v Pablo Cuevas (URU)
Jan Hajek (CZE) v Qualifier
Sam Querrey (USA) [18] v Lukas Lacko (SVK)

Julien Benneteau (FRA) [30] v Ricardas Berankis (LTU)
Tobias Kamke (GER) v Paolo Lorenzi (ITA)
Qualifier v Qualifier
Roger Federer (SUI) [2] v Qualifier

The more things change, the more they remain the same. This sets up a repeat of the Rome final with the same lopsided result.

Roland Garros 2013 Women's Draw

Serena Williams [1] v Anna Tatishvili
Caroline Garcia [WC] v Qualifier
Monica Niculescu v Johanna Larsson
Sorana Cirstea [26] v Kiki Bertens

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova [19] v Andrea Hlavackova
Petra Cetkovska v Olga Puchkova
Qualifier v Qualifier
Roberta Vinci [15] v Stephane Foretz Gacon [WC]

Caroline Wozniacki [10] v Laura Robson
Bojana Jovanovski v Qualifier
Pauline Parmentier v Magdalena Rybarikova
Ekaterina Makarova [22] v Svetlana Kuznetsova

Varvara Lepchenko [29] v Mirjana Lucic-Baroni
Romina Oprandi v Elina Svitolina
Jana Cepelova v Christina Mchale
Angelique Kerber [8] v Mona Barthel


A tricky quarter for the top seed. We'll have to see if she's been able to mentally recover from last year's first-round exit in Paris, the first time in her entire career to ever lose her first match at a major.

:: ::

Agnieszka Radwanska [4] v Shahar Peer
Mallory Burdette v Donna Vekic
Mandy Minella v Qualifier
Venus Williams [30] v Urszula Radwanska

Julia Goerges [24] v Qualifier
Virginie Razzano [WC] v Claire Feuerstein [WC]
Chanelle Scheepers v Mathilde Johansson
Ana Ivanovic [14] v Petra Martic

Nadia Petrova [11] v Monica Puig
Madison Keys v Misaki Doi
Irena Pavlovic [WC] v Shelby Rogers
Carla Suarez Navarro [20] v Simona Halep

Sabine Lisicki [32] v Sofia Arvidsson
Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor v Qualifier
Ayumi Morita v Yulia Putintseva
Sara Errani [5] v Arantxa Rus


I'm unaware of the form of most of the seeded players in this quarter.  

:: :: :: ::

Na Li [6] v Anabel Medina Garrigues
Bethanie Mattek-Sands v Lourdes Dominguez Lino
Tatjana Maria Qualifier
Yaroslava Shvedova [27] v Coco Vandeweghe

Klara Zakopalova [23] v Kaia Kanepi
Stefanie Voegele v Heather Watson
Lucie Hradecka v Ashleigh Barty [WC]
Maria Kirilenko [12] v Nina Bratchikova

Marion Bartoli [13] v Olga Govortsova
Kristyna Pliskova v Qualifier
Francesca Schiavone v Melinda Czink
Kirsten Flipkens [21] v Flavia Pennetta

Alize Cornet [31] v Maria Joao Koehler
Irina Camelia Begu v Silvia Soler Espinosa
Annika Beck v Qualifier
Victoria Azarenka [3] v Elena Vesnina

This is one hell of a quarter. I suspect the Rome runner-up will get through, but any number of women here could surprise.

:: ::

Petra Kvitova [7] v Aravane Rezai [WC]
Shuai Peng v Camila Giorgi
Yanina Wickmayer v Qualifier
Lucie Safarova [25] v Jamie Hampton

Jelena Jankovic [18] v Daniela Hantuchova
Karolina Pliskova v Garbine Muguruza
Kristina Mladenovic v Lauren Davis
Samantha Stosur [9] v Kimiko Date-Krumm

Dominka Cibulkova [16] vLesia Tsurenko
Marina Erakovic v Elena Baltacha
Alexandra Cadantu v Qualifier
Sloane Stephens [17] v Karin Knapp

Tamira Paszek [28] v Melanie Oudin
Jie Zheng v Vesna Dolonc
Eugenie Bouchard v Tsvetana Pironkova
Maria Sharapova [2] v Su-Wei Hsieh

If Sharapova is healthy, she'll win here. If not, your guess is as good as mine. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

2013 Indian Wells Finals Open Thread

The shutters are up for the rest of the day. I can't imagine anyone is around. Still, I'll post comments when moved by the tennis produced between Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki in the women's final, Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro in the men's.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

2013 Australian Open Preview


This is the first Grand Slam of the year. It's also the first Grand Slam in more than a decade that Andy Roddick will not contest. I found myself looking at the men's singles draw and, by habit, I scanned it quickly to see if the American was anywhere near Roger Federer. For that brief scanning, I had actually forgotten that my favorite male tennis player retired at last year's US Open.

One of these days, I'll write the post that has eluded me since then. For the record, I buried my dog two years and thirteen days ago and I still haven't touched a thing on the porch which doubled as his bedroom.

I'm awfully slow when it comes to certain things.

Surely, you've seen both draws by now and read the experts' previews and predictions. I got nothing.

It's been far too long since I've seen a match from beginning to end so I haven't a clue who's in form and who's not, who's injured or sick and who's not, who the oddsmaker's favorites are or which unheralded players have the best chance of storming through the draw and surprising us all with an appearance on Rod Laver Arena late in the second week.

It is Melbourne, after all.

I also haven't a clue how much of the proceedings I'll be able to consume, but I will consume some of it. It's Grand Slam tennis, doggone it, and, by hook or crook, I'm going to enjoy it.

Should I disappear for a week or more, a likely proposition given that the bills I will introduce in the 126th Maine Legislature are due next Friday, January 18th, please use this as your 2013 Australian Open open thread.

Happy New Year.


Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Update

I have just been elected to the Maine House of Representatives.

I'm beside myself.

I'm not going to turn my back on this blog forever, but I've got a new job to begin in less than a month, and I have no idea how much I will be able to post here going forward.

I'll do my best.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Drive By

It's been one helluva harvest season. No end in sight.

I want to write about tennis, but I simply can't.

I will again, though. Sure as the sun rises.

Monday, September 10, 2012

2012 US OPEN: Men's Final Preview

Andy Murray GBR (3) vs  Novak Djokovic SRB (2)

Andy Murray of Great Britain will be playing in his 5th major final, having lost the first  four against Roger Federer (2007 US Open, 2010 Australian Open and 2012 Wimbledon) and one against Novak Djokovic (2011 Australian Open). Djokovic already has 5 majors and has won the last three hard courts majors played.

The two played what would have been the best match of the year in the 2012 Australian Open semifinal if it were not eclipsed by the insane 6-hour final played between Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. Since then Murray has won the Gold Medal at the 2012 Olympics and I think that he really feels that he can win this match. He is playing someone he has known since he was 11 years old. The two are 1 week apart in age and are god friends off the court (who used to practice together, until Murray's coach Ivan Lendl prohibited such fraternization).

Murray has had an extra day to rest, which should serve him well. To me, the match will not be decided by tactics and strategy but by the mental toughness of the person who wants it the most. Head-to-head Djokovic has a slight 8-6 edge, but this Murray is a different player now.

MadProfessah's pick: Murray.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

2012 US OPEN: Women's Final Preview

Victoria Azarenka BLR (1) vs.  Serena Williams USA (4)

Here are my predictions for the women's final of the 2012 US Open. This year I have correctly predicted 3 of 4 women's quarterfinals3 of 4 of the men's quarterfinals2 of 2 women's semifinals and 2 of 2 men's semifinals.

How They Got Here: Women's Semifinals Review
Serena Williams USA (4) d. Sara Errani ITA (10) 6-1 6-2. 
Serena was never threatened by the diminutive Italian who has become her country's best player by dint of having one of the best seasons of any player this year. Errani has won all 6 of her WTA career singles titles this year, and reached the quarterfinals or better in  three majors, the first time she had ever progressed that far in any Grand Slam. Errani is a fighter but she has no shot that could trouble Serena, and the match was basically a mismatch, with the result never really in doubt.

Victoria Azarenka BLR (1) d. Maria Sharapova RUS (3) 3-6 6-2 6-4.
The other semifinal was completely different, one in which the result was hard to predict until the very last game, which was won by Azarenka. These two are establishing a significant rivalry, having played four times in 2012, with Vika winning three of these matches and now has a 6-4 lead in their career head-to-head.  The two have very similar playing styles with hard-hitting groundstrokes on both wins, with stronger backhands than forehands. Azarenka has significantly better movement, while Sharapova can have a significantly better serve when she gets in a groove. This match was a war of attrition, with Azarenka surviving Sharapova's firepower with her retrieving powers (the Russian ended with 44 winners and 42 unforced errors, while the Belarussian ended with 19 winners and 19 errors). Sharapova's mental toughness and competitive spirit has served her well in winning 4 majors but Azarenka is 2 years younger and could very well end her career with  an even larger numbers, depending on when Serena decides to retire.

The Women's Final: Prediction
Victoria Azarenka BLR (1) vs.  Serena Williams USA (4). Serena has an overwhelming 9-1 career head-to-head advantage against Azarenka and this really reflects the 90% probability that Serena will win this match. Despite this act, it should be a relatively close, hard-fought match, perhaps of the quality of their 3rd round match from 2011, which was won by Serena 6-1 7-6(5). This is pretty typical of their matches; Serena wins the first set relatively easily and when she gets up a break in the second she relaxes and gives Azarenka a chance to get back into the match and eventually has to gut out the second set in a close tiebreak. Serena does not feel any kind of animus towards Azarenka and will not try to blow her off the court as she did with Sharapova during her 6-0 6-1 drubbing to win the Gold Medal match at the London Olympics earlier this summer.

However, after having two bad experiences in New York in 2011 against Sam Stosur and in 2009 against Kim Clijsters, Serena has been on her best behavior this year. Serena was unable to play the 2010 tournament due to her year-long medically induced hiatus from the game, and she last won this title in 2008 (over Jelena Jankovic). It's amazing that  a few weeks before her 31st birthday Serena is the heavy favorite to win her 15th major title, pulling her within striking distance of the magic number of 18 that all-time greats Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert ended their storied careers with. If she were to get to the number then the question of Greatest of all Time would be another legitimate title to bestow upon her.

MadProfessah's Prediction: Serena.

Friday, September 07, 2012

2012 US OPEN: Women's Semifinals Preview



Last year I correctly predicted 2 of 4 women's quarterfinals and 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals. This year I correctly predicted 3 of 4 women's quarterfinals and 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals. Here are my predictions for the 2012 US Open women's semifinals.

Victoria Azarenka
 BLR (1) vs.  
Maria Sharapova RUS (3)Both players played some of the best tennis of the year against stubbon opponents in their quarterfinals to reach this point. Azarenka took out the defending champion Sam Stosur in the most exciting women's tennis match of the year 6-1 4-6 7-6(5). Sharapova had to come back from 0-4 down against the hard-hitting but peculiar Marion Bartoli, which she did by winning 3-6 6-3 6-4. This showdown is worthy of a grand slam final, and indeed these two played the Australian Open final earlier this year, which was won by Azarenka 6-3 6-0. Bizarrely, this was not the only time this year that Sharapova was blanked in an important final, losing the Wimbledon Gold medal match 6-0 6-1 to Serena Williams but she also had a high point by winning the French Open over surprise 2012 US Open semifinalist Sara Errani to completing the career slam. Azarenka and Sharapova have played 9 times, with the Belarussian possessing a slight 5-4 lead, including a 4-2 lead to Azarenka on hard courts. Azarenka has also won their only grand slam meeting (in the 2012 Australian Open final). Sharapova got revenge for that major final loss to Azarenka by winning the Stuttgart final but that was clay and this match will be during the day on a hard court in New York. The World's #1 player will likely prevail to reach her first US Open final. Mad Professah's Pick: Azarenka.

Sara Errani ITA (10) vs.  Serena Williams USA (4) For the first time in my memory Serena was placed in the much easier half of the draw. The other half of the draw contained almost all the former and current Grand Slam champions except for Serena's sister who lost in the second round to another one of the most dramatic matches of the tournament to Angelique Kerber. Kerber is the last person to beat Serena, but the lefty German was taken out by Errani, her Italian opponent in two tight sets 7-6(5) 6-3. Errani is a fighter and makes the most of her slight frame but she can easily be overpowered, as women's tennis most powerful player ever will demonstrate quite easily as she reacher her 6th US Open final, and 19th major final, of her career. Mad Professah's pick: Serena.