Bernard Tomic: Atomic or bombing out??

October 24, 2011

I, like most Australian tennis fans, have been keenly watching the developments of Bernard Tomic since the young Aussie started making headlines. However most of these headlines weren’t just for his prodigious talent, he did win the Orange Bowl Under 12s, 14s and 16s, but for some pretty outlandish off court behaviour.

It was a young Tomic that gloated he would become world number one after winning the Under 16s Orange Bowl, he walked off a court when trailing Marinko Matosevic 2-6 1-3 at an ITF event in Australia in 2008 and he has been criticised for not giving his all in games and in preparation and has had a public feud with Lleyton Hewitt.

Australia is desperate for our next big thing in tennis. Once the powerhouse of international tennis, with the names of Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Margaret Court, Lew Hoad, Evonne Goolagong Cawley Neale Fraser, John Newcombe and many more leading Australia to decades of success from the 50s to 70s. But the strength of Australian tennis has waned, especially in the last decade.

Yes Australia has had grand slam champions and world number ones but the cupboard has been pretty bare. Hewitt was the last Aussie man to win a grand slam tournament in 2001 at Wimbledon and no Aussie male has won the Australian Open since Mark Edmonson surprised John Newcombe in 1978. Sam Stosur’s US Open win is flying the flag for Australian tennis but before that win the last woman to lift a major trophy was Goolagong Cawley when she won Wimbledon in 1980.

The pressure is well and truly on Tomic but I can’t decide whether the German-born 19-year-old can be the champion the sport mad Aussies crave.

2011 has been a break out year from Tomic. It started at the Australian Open when Bernard was by no means disgraced by then world number one Rafael Nadal. Although going down to Rafa in straight sets in their third round clash, after a straight sets victory over Feliciano Lopez in the previous round, Tomic should have won the second set after going up two early breaks. Tomic lost that set 7-5 then fell away in the third losing 2-6 5-7 3-6.

After that loss Tomic went back to the challenger circuit didn’t really feature on the ATP tour until his life changing week at Wimbledon. Tomic had to qualify and after winning his three qualifying matches he defeated former world number three Nikolay Davydenko in straight sets. Tomic then came from two sets to love down to defeat Igor Andreev before the recording his biggest win of his career taking down world number five Robin Soderling in straight sets. He backed that victory up with another straight set victory this time over Xavier Malisse to be the youngest player to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals since Boris Becker in 1986. Bernie’s opponent was Novak Djokovic and the youngster was far from disgraced against the hottest man in world tennis and eventual champion pushing the Serb to four sets losing 5-7 in the fourth.

Tomic has needed to and has played much more regularly on the ATP tour since Wimbledon and has had some positive results. He defeated top 20 player Stanislas Wawrinka in the Davis Cup tie against Switzerland and pushed Roger Federer in the reverse singles. He also recorded his second win over Top 10 opponents defeating Mardy Fish in Shanghai and just went down to another Top 10 player Gael Monfils, and eventual champion, in three tight sets last week in Stockholm.

However despite all the positives this year has brought, his ranking has risen 166 places to 42, Tomic’s game style is worrying and I can’t decide whether I love it or loathe it. I liken it to tiddlywinks tennis, as he just pushes the ball around the court rather than hitting it. Tomic thinks about tennis more than most modern day players, which is refreshing, and is competent at net. He labels his slice backhand as his favourite, again unusual when compared to his power hitting peers. Tomic can easily improve his ranking but he still needs to make improvements in his game. His serve needs work, especially pace wise to give him some more free points but it is his attitude that needs to improve the most.

In some of his recent losses he has really fallen away in matches. Against Alexandr Dolgopolov in Shanghai Tomic lost 12 of the last 13 games against the Ukranian after winning the first set 7-5. A week earlier in Tokyo Tomic took the first set of Mardy Fish before falling away to lose 7-6(5) 4-6 1-6. These results were just over a month after a dismal 1-6 0-6 2-6 loss to Marin Cilic loss in the second round of the US Open.

Jack Reader, the Australian coach of Dolgopolov was critical of Tomic’s performance. ”Bernie, the last two games he didn’t look like he really tried,” he said. ”I mean, ‘Sasha’ played well the last two sets, but what do you say?” When asked if Tomic gave up, ”I don’t know if I’d say that … he didn’t see any reason to keep trying, I suppose is may be a better way to put it”.

Hopefully Tomic learns from this breakthrough season and can become the champion the Australian public wants him to be, but Tomic needs to find consistent tennis first. An improvement in his ability to stay in tough matches and some more mental toughness could see the nineteen year old soar.


Finals Action in Moscow and Stockholm

October 23, 2011

The finals for both ATP tournaments have been settled with top seed Gael Monfils taking on Jarkko Nieminen in Stockholm. Playing the his 12th straight Stockholm Open, the 73rd rank Finn, is entering his third final hoping to go one better than his 2001 and 2006 finals defeats. Nieminen defeated his 2006 conqueror James Blake in the semi 7-6(5) 5-7 6-2 to advance to the final and will be looking to add to his lone ATP title in Auckland in 2006. Gael Monfils is looking for his first title of 2011 after coming through a tough three set match against Canadian rising star Milos Raonic. The world number number 10 came back from a set and break down to defeat Raonic 6-7(6) 6-4 6-3. The Frenchman is the highest ranked player not to win a title this year and if the Frenchman was to win he would go ahead of Aleksandr Dolgopolov in the World Finals race and into 14th place but is very unlikely to scrap into the field for the London event. The pair have met just the once, less than a month ago at Bangkok with Monfils coming through a close match 7-5 7-6(4).

The other ATP final is the first ever all-Serbian affair with defending champion Viktor Troicki taking on compatriot Janko Tipsarevic in Moscow. Second seed Troicki defeated Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-4 6-4 to join the top seeded Tipsarevic after he ended three time titlist Nikolay Davydenko’s tournament defeating the former world number three 6-2 7-5. The only prior meeting between the pair was in the Russian capital in 2008 with Troicki winning 6-3 6-4. A win for Tipsarevic will see the Serbian number two rise to number ten in the World Finals race and a good showing in the final tournaments of the year, particularly in Masters event in Paris, could see the Serb an outside chance of qualification.

Tennis rolls into Moscow and Stockholm

October 17, 2011

In the shadows of the Shanghai Masters the ATP tour to roll on with two 250 events, in Stockholm and Moscow. Like most (all) 250 events most of the names won’t be playing, after the big guns think that they play too much tennis. However there are still some big names in action hoping to claim valuable season points in a bid to qualify for the season ending World Tour Finals.

World number 13 Janko Tipsarevic leads the Moscow field. The Serb is an outside chance of qualifying but is coming off two first round losses since winning his first career title in Kuala Lumpur. Fellow Serb Viktor Troicki is the second seed in the Russian capital with Shanghai quarter finalist Alexandr Dolgopolov and former world number three Nikolay Davydenko rounds out the top four seeds and in one of seven Russians in the draw.

Gael Monfils is the top seed for the Stockholm Open with the world number 10 back in action after missing Shanghai with a knee injury and is another looking to qualify for the World Tour Finals. The Frenchman has a first round bye and is likely to face Australian Bernard Tomic is the 2nd round if the youngest man in the world’s top 50 defeats a qualifier. Juan Martin Del Potro is the second seed in the Swedish capital and the world number 14 will be looking to ramp up his form with one eye on the Davis Cup final against Spain. Stanislas Wawrinka is the third seed coming off the back of a tight third round loss to eventual Shanghai champion Andy Murray. Other big names in action include big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic who has a tough first round clash with Marocs Baghdatis, and number four seed Juan Ignacio Chela. It’s also great to see Tommy Haas back in action, the German former world number two has struggled with injuries for the last couple of years and hasn’t played since the US Open. One player missing from the tournament is the Swedish number one Robin Soderling who is still out with glandular fever.

Full draws for Moscow and Stockholm

Federer Four and Falling

October 16, 2011

With Andy Murray into the final of the Shanghai Masters a lot of tennis talk has turned to the rankings. If the British defending champion salutes again in China he will talk over the world number three ranking from Roger Federer. If Murray wins it will be the first time that the Swiss superstar will be ranked below three for the first since June 23 2003, just before he won his first of his 16 majors, 2003 Wimbledon.

This seems to come as a shock to some as tweeted by the Sydney Morning Herald last night, “Roger Federer could be #4 in the world if Andy Murray wins the Shanghai Masters tomorow … it wouldn’t seem right”, but if you look at the facts and figures it doesn’t seem that unusual.

Novak Djokovic has dominated this season winning three grand slams and only losing only three matches for season and is a deserved world number one.

Rafael Nadal, after a stellar 2010 where he picked up three grand slams, has had a disappointing year by his lofty standards, but still claimed the French Open title and was a finalist at Wimbledon and the US Open. The Spaniard has also won the most matches on tour this year with a 65-12 win-loss record but has only picked up three titles, at Roland Garros, Barcelona and the Monte Carlo Masters, though he has been runner up to the Djokovic in four Masters events.

Andy Murray is entering his second Masters final this season looking for his second Masters title after defeating Novak Djokovic in the Cincinnati final. The Brit has won four titles this year as well and has made a grand slam final this season in Melbourne, losing to Djokovic and has bowed out in the last three Grand Slam semi finals losing each time to Nadal.

Where is Federer supposed to be?

Comparatively Federer’s grand slam success stacks up to his nearest rivals, he has made one grand slam final, losing to Nadal at the French after beating Djokovic in the semi, and has made the semis the Australian and US Open and the quarters of Wimbledon. But it is throughout the remainder of the events that his form wanes. He has only made three finals, including the French for the year, in Doha, which he won, in the first tournament of the year and in Dubai in February when he lost to Djokovic in the semis. Currently Federer is out resting and is unlikely to play again to the World Tour Finals, or perhaps the Masters event in Paris and in the meantime his nearest opponent has won two tournament and in the final of another.

Yes you would think he is a long way above world number five, the other Shanghai finalist David Ferrer, but the Spanish number two has won more titles than the Swiss this year and has made two more Masters finals, and is only 885 points behind Federer in the ATP race, something that could easily disappear if Federer doesn’t appear in Paris.

Sure Federer can still come back from this season but it as he get’s older it becomes harder and harder. Roger hasn’t been number two since early March this year or number one since May of last year and if the current form continues this his ranking will only continue to slide.

Shanghai Surprises

October 15, 2011

The ATP’s “Asian Swing” has hit top gear this with the Shanghai Masters. Despite 1000 ranking points of offer many top names did not made to trip to China. World number one Novak Djokovic pulled out due to a back/rib cartilage injury, Roger Federer pulled out citing a need to rest, Sweden’s world number six is out suffering from glandular fever (mono) and number nine Gael Monfils is out with a shoulder injury. Despite the loss of those big names the tournament was lead by big names Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, a winner last week over Nadal in Tokyo, plus an in form Tomas Berdych, coming off a win in Beijing, and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga who Berdych defeated in the semi final in the Chinese capital.

 The opening round contained few surprises with the biggest casualty being an under the weather Janko Tipsarevic. The number nine seed and winner at Kuala Lumpar two weeks ago went down to Felicano Lopez in two tiebreak sets. However Round 2 was a different story. Tsonga off the back of his loss to Berdych, was beaten by Japan’s Kei Nishikori who came from behind to defeat the big Frenchman and the tournament’s fourth seed 0-6 7-5 7-6(5). Mardy Fish the fifth seeded American also couldn’t win his opening match going down to Australia’s Bernard Tomic 6-4 1-6 4-6. Fish couldn’t repeat his performance from last week when he defeated this year’s Wimbledon quarterfinalist in Tokyo. 14th seed Jurgen Melzer and 16th seed Fernando Verdasco also fell in the second round both downing down in three sets to Santiago Giraldo and Juan Carlos Ferrero respectively.

 The seeds continued to tumble in the third round. Berdych, who broke a 29 month title drought with his win over Cilic in Beijing, was defeated in straight sets by Felicano Lopez 6-4 6-4. Andy Roddick had a good win over number seven seed Nicolas Almagro and David Ferrer saved three match points against compatriot Juan Carlos Ferrero, to advance to the third round in three sets. Andy Murray also went through in three sets holding off Stanislas Wawrinka. Alexandr Dolgopolov set up a quarter final clash with Nishikori, winning 12 of the last 13 games against Bernard Tomic after losing a tight first set. Fellow Australian Matthew Ebden thought he had pulled off the upset of the tournament after the world number 124 defeated number eight seed Gilles Simon 6-2 2-6 7-6(8) but the Australian qualifier was surpassed by German world number 22 Florian Mayer who defeated world number two Rafael Nadal in straight sets 7-6(5) 6-3. In the biggest win of his career the unusual German never faced a break point and sent Nadal to a crushing defeat.

Mayer couldn’t continue his run, easily falling to Felicano Lopez in straight sets (6-2 6-4) who set up an all Spanish semi final with Ferrer after the third seed overcame Roddick 6-7(2) 62 7-6(2). In the other half of the draw Kei Nishikori, how is now the highest ever ranked Japanese player, defeated Dolgopolov 6-6 6-3, in his first straight set victory of the tournament and will have the number two seed Andy Murray who ended the dream runner of Aussie qualifier Matt Ebden with a 6-2 6-3 victory. In what could be a career changing week the 23-year-old will enter the world’s top 100 for the first time when the news rankings are released on Monday.

In what shapes as an interesting first semi final, and the first all Spanish Masters 1000 semi that does not feature Nadal since 2006, Ferrer trails his lower ranked compatriot 6-4 in career head to head meetings and has only beaten the big serving leftie once on a hard court in seven matches. However their last hard court match was in 2009, also at Shanghai, and Ferrer has improved since then, and should win in a close one. In the second semi Murray, the defending champion, will face Nishikori for the first time and should prove to powerful for the tenacious 47th ranked Japanese player. A win here will see him go into the final as a firm favourite, who has a winning record against both Spaniards, 4-3 over Ferrer including last week at the Tokyo semis and the last three clashes and is undefeated against Lopez in their six meetings. Victory in the final will go a long way to seeing the Brit end the year as world number three.

Madrid Masters

May 3, 2011

After my efforts yesterday at having a go after Rafael Nadal, today I will concentrate on his upcoming challenges at the Madrid Masters. After his perfect clay court season last year Rafa has 1ooo points to defend and the pressure is on the world number one on home “turf”.

Rafael Nadal (c) Getty Images

 Much has been said about Rafa’s tough draw but claiming a third Madrid title will be a tough task. After receiving a first round bye (though I don’t know why the ATP insists on having them) Nadal has to play Marcos Baghdatis in the second, last weeks winner at Estoril Juan Martin Del Potro, Mikhail Youzhny or Marin Cilic (most likely Delpo) in the third round. Rafa is drawn in the same quarter as world number 8 Jurgen Melzer, could have Roger Federer in the semi final before possibly taking on Novak Djokovic who is unbeaten in 2011, has already defeated Nadal in two Masters 1000 events (though on American hardcourts).

For the full draw click here.

In other Madrid news big serving American and clay hater Andy Roddick was embarrassed yesterday by world number 160 Italian Flavio Cippola 7-6(5) 4-6 7-6(3). It was the unheralded  I’m sure already has the green grass of Queen’s in his sights but there is another month on the clay and Roddick needs the rankings points if he is to make it back into the top ten.

Novak Djokovic needs three wins to break Ivan Lendl’s record for most victories to start the season. Winning his family owned event in Belgrade last week has taken the world number 2 to 27-0 for season 2011.

Juan Carlos Ferrero the former world number one and former winner at Madrid could not go past the first round losing to Dutchman Robin Hasse 2-6 7-5 6-4. The Spaniard is only playing his second event since the US Open.

And hopefully Robin Soderling can overcome his bad form, injuries/illness and sacking of his coach to set up a potential clash with Roger Federer in the quarter finals. After winning three of his first four tournaments the Swede has only won four matches since February and maybe the end of his five month partnership is bring a change of fortunes.

Rafael the king of clay or king of whinging??

May 2, 2011

Rafael Nadal has long been my favourite tennis player. I seem to have a thing for Spaniards. At first Juan Carlos Ferrero could do no wrong in my eyes. He could even be playing against an Aussie and I would throw patriotism out the window but due to his seemingly debilitating list on injuries my interest has waned and Rafa has taken over.

I love most things about Rafa, even his undie-picking routine and his vast amount of time-wasting between points doesn’t bother me but one thing that is starting to annoy me is the amount of complaining Rafa has been doing.

It all started at the Australian Open when he retired against David Ferrer in the quarterfinals. Yes he was injured and yes he was disappointed to be injured but he did spend the majority of the 2 hour and 33 minute muttering to his players box and looking forlorn.

Rafael Nadal against David Ferrer at Australian Open (c) Getty Images

The complaining has only continued since the “King of Clay” returned to his spiritual home on the European red dirt.

After winning his record seventh straight Monte Carlo tournament Nadal has come out against the workload that the top players on tour need.

We would not have to play every week as we do now

Last time I checked no top level tennis player such as Nadal, Djokovic, Federer or those on the level lower play week in week out. They might play a couple of weeks in a row but throughout the year the most players play around 17 tournaments which equates to less than half a year. Nadal for instance throughout the last twelve months (which is what the current ranking system is based) has played 17 tournaments, Djokovic 17, Federer 19, world number 15 Viktor Troicki 26, world number 30 Florian Mayer 24 and world number 50 Xavier Malisse 26.

Playing back to back tournaments is also a rarity especially in the larger tournaments. Indian Wells and Miami are back to back tournaments in March though they are both held over two weeks. Madrid and Rome are back to back in May, and the Montreal/Toronto and Cincinnati tournaments follow each other but for the rest of the season tournaments can be spaced throughout the 11 month season.

Playing “every week” is not the only gripe that Nadal was with the ATP he also wanted the current rankings system to be expanded over two year not the one year that is currently used. Nadal says that this will enable players to

have more relaxed lives and longer careers

as players wouldn’t have the pressure to defend points accrued in the last year. However I don’t think this will have any impact as players already chose what tournaments they play every year and rarely change tournaments that they play from year to year. This issue has also been raised as Nadal is facing a challenge from Novak Djokovic for his number one spot. After dominating last season including winning three grand slams and being undefeated throughout the European clay court season he has a lot of points to defend. I think the system is currently a simple way to recognise who is the best player throughout the season and is easy to understand unlike other rankings including the golf system.

Hopefully the powers that be leave the season and the ranking system as they are and Nadal goes back to playing good tennis on the court rather than talk bad tennis of it.