French Open Review

From football back to tennis now and a late review of how the French Open panned out. There has always been speculation about Djokovic’s game on clay and every tennis player in the last 10 years has been unfortunate that they’ve had to come up against Nadal but it was inevitable that at some point, a player as great as him was going to win the career Grand Slam. As if he wasn’t good enough on his own the luck seemed to be with him when it came to the draw. Federer withdrew before the tournament started and Nadal withdrew halfway through the tournament. That meant Djokovic had a reasonably easy run to the final, he still had to beat some good players, but he didn’t have a real challenge and never looked in trouble until the final. The luck was not with him when it came to the weather though, which was unfortunate not just for him but the audience as well. He was getting made the priority as the World No. 1 but that didn’t work to his advantage. He was on and off the court all the time and then often not only playing against his opponent but also playing against time.

His final opponent Andy Murray had a much more grueling time getting to the final, starting out with 2 five-set matches before becoming a bit more comfortable beating big servers in Karlovic and Isner before overcoming the crowd to dispatch French favourite Gasquet. For the most part he also dominated Stan Wawrinka in the semi-final. The defending champion had a good tournament but came up against a superb Murray and couldn’t replicate his perfection of the previous year. Wawrinka put up a valiant display to get the third set after being 2-0 down but Murray rallied superbly to get the job done in 4. Djokovic’s semi-final paled in comparison as he dominated in 3 quick sets, but you can’t take anything away from Dominic Thiem. The Austrian benefited from from the kindness of the draw but he played his best tennis and beat some very good players. I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the coming months and years, as he rescued two match points against Federer in Stuttgart to win his first grass tournament of the year. He’ll definitely be someone to look out for at Wimbledon.

The final itself was of the highest quality between the two best players in the World at the moment. Unlike Stan last year though, Murray plays a very similar game to Djokovic, both pride themselves on service return and impenetrable defense. Wawrinka beat Djokovic last year with pure aggression. His power and accuracy was ridiculous for most of that match and is one of the few people to really win the battle of the mind games against Novak. For a while it looked as if Murray might be able to do it. The notoriously slow starter did the opposite and came out firing on all cylinders and took Djokovic by surprise. He forced him into mistakes we don’t usually see from Novak’s racket and took the first set with some comfort.

Murray though is always in a mental battle of his own and when Djokovic stepped up his game in the 2nd set Murray seemed to go to pieces. The overhead camera was yet again the source and target of his frustration as it had been throughout the tournament. What I don’t understand is how it manages to annoy him but nobody else. It’s there for every player yet he’s the only one who it ever bothers. Then a reporter trying to do an interview with someone in one of the players camps during the match set him off, shouting at both him and the umpire to “get him out”. All the while Djokovic was just phasing it out, improving his game all the time, getting Murray more and more frustrated. Every rally was long and it favoured Djokovic massively. Murray was trying other tactics but nothing worked. Novak both comfortably and emphatically won the 2nd and 3rd sets and despite a little bit of pressure, more from himself than Murray I feel, he won the final set and match, completing the career Grand Slam and etching his name in history.

Murray does have Grand Slams to his name and is in an unfortunate era to have to compete with Djokovic, Federer, and Nadal, but he is becoming known as the nearly man now, getting to a lot of finals but falling to the better player every time on the biggest stage. He plays the same style of Djokovic and it beats most people, but he’s just not as good a player in every aspect of the game. It’s small margins but small margins that count in every single point and match of their rivalry. Djokovic is getting close to Federer’s Grand Slam record and the calendar Grand Slam this year, and although I will always prefer Federer, Djokovic could become the greatest of all time in the next few years.

To a continuing giant of the sport to a falling one, Serena Williams yet again failed in her quest to overtake Steffi Graf and become the woman with the most amount of Grand Slam singles titles. She fell at the last hurdle at the Australian Open to Kerber, and she fell at the last hurdle again on the clay, this time to Garbine Muguruza. Muguruza is another powerhouse making a name for herself over the last couple of years. Similar to Serena, she is used to bullying her opponents off the court with consistently big hitting. She won the tournament in the best way, struggling at times but getting better as the tournament progressed. Williams did her usual, acted really odd and complained about a lot while playing like it was her first time on the court until she remembered she could play tennis and is better than everyone else. Credit to Muguruza though she didn’t let her get to that stage. She dominated on the important points, took her chances, and was ultimately the better player on the day.

A joyish occasion for Spain as they also won the doubles with Feliciano and Marc Lopez edging out the legendary Bryan Brothers. All in all it was a dismal French Open for the people in Paris when it came to the weather and organisation, but there was a lot of high quality tennis played and a lot of home grown talent on display from their point of view.

My own tennis season

I don’t really talk about what I get up to in my life, anyone who reads this probably just thinks I spend my life watching tv, films and wrestling and it’s not far from the truth being honest. I’ve finished university and not only don’t have a job yet but I don’t really know what I want to do. It’s worrying how badly planned out I have my life but I’m just not one to worry about things like that. Something that has kept me going in the times of immense boredom in between films and wrestling and looking for a part time job is my tennis.
I play for Liverpool Cricket Club for the Men’s 1st team in the Liverpool District 3rd Division and for the most part I enjoy it. The tennis section of the club is run by people I quite frankly cannot stand and it’s getting worse every year but the other guys in the team, my coach, and a couple of other people I play with are worth staying at the club for. I’m only 21 and still getting better every year but for probably the majority of the season this year I played with agonising tennis elbow. Fortunately it only severely affected one shot but unfortunately that shot was the serve. There were some days I was just throwing away service games because all of my effort couldn’t muster the power to get it over the net but having said that there was only one game all season when I lost both of my matches so despite the pain I still did a pretty good job.
It wasn’t my best season but I played the tennis I needed to play to win as did everyone else. I don’t think anyone played particularly outstanding we just had a pretty solid team and managed to clinch promotion on the final day of the season.
Next season we’re going to be in the 2nd division and the captain will have a difficult choice with my brother coming back. He won’t want to take anyone out the team but in my opinion my brother is the best doubles player at the club and there are at least 2 players past their best that he could replace, I just don’t think he will unfortunately and with the same team as this year we’ll struggle to stay in that division.
Whether or not I even stay at the club is a completely different issue. The treatment of my coach from the people who run the tennis section has been disgraceful, you can barely stand up on the courts when they’re bone dry never mind change direction. I’ll also be paying the adult membership instead of the student one which I think is about a £120 increase.  They’ll have to be pretty convincing to get me to stay but the promotion is definitely tempting, the only club I’d consider moving to is Mossley Hill and walking into their 1st team would still put me in the 4th division. We’ll just have to see what happens but all in all the season itself was pretty successful.

Liverpool Hope University International Tennis Tournament

This tournament has been going a long time now and it magically got better since I started getting free tickets as it moved to the club I play tennis for, Liverpool Cricket Club. It has been very on and off over the years, the weather often contributing to its downfall more than the quality of tennis. Its first year at the Cricket Club hailed success but from what I saw it was a complete flop. This year I was only able to attend the Thursday which was disappointing as I would have liked to see Mansour Bahrami again because he does always entertain the crowd and it’s fun to watch. However the grass looked in much better condition this year and the line judges and ball boys looked much better trained and got very little wrong.

There was a very good mixture of professional talent, legends for entertainment, and local up and coming talent. Aljaž Bedene vs. Damir Džumhur was the main match for me as someone who wanted to enjoy the highest quality of tennis possible. Bedene is the new British number 2, is still very young, and has a ton of potential but also proved to be quite charismatic in this affair, as did Džumhur, the two of them putting on match of high professional standard but also with a bit of flair, entertaining the relatively small crowd. The tennis was of the highest standard I have seen for a few years with Andrey Rublev returning again to join the two professionals previously mentioned as well as the late entrant Pablo Andújar who I unfortunately didn’t get to see. The quality however made the turn-out of the crowd quite disappointing. I understand that the majority of people are in work on a Thursday afternoon and the tickets aren’t the cheapest but none of the stands were close to being full. More credit to all the professionals playing to make it as entertaining as it was because they couldn’t have been blamed for being annoyed with the turnout.

I hope Saturday wasn’t ruined too much by the rain and the turnout was a bit better for the three days that I didn’t attend but I thoroughly enjoyed my day and hopefully it will remain in Liverpool and at the Cricket Club for next year because I would definitely go again.

Wimbledon Predictions

With Wimbledon right around the corner I thought I better weigh in on who I want to win and who I think will actually win. Firstly I would like to see Lleyton Hewitt win at least one match. He has been going forever and is an absolute legend. It’s always good to see Hewitt and the Australian fans turn up at Wimbledon but it’s also good to see the new, young Australian talent they can support when Hewitt retires. Secondly I want anybody but Andy Murray to win, I do have specifics but as long as Murray doesn’t win I’ll be pretty satisfied.

Federer is always my pick to want to win for any tournament and this is no different. In the last few years this has ended mostly in disappointment but I have never-ending faith in Roger Federer that he can win another grand slam. As much as Wawrinka did the unthinkable at Roland Garros and beat an almost invincible Djokovic I don’t think he will be able to replicate that. Then again I didn’t think he was particularly great on clay before this year so maybe his grass game has improved enough. I do think Djokovic and Murray are the two favourites going in to Wimbledon this year are purely on the head to heads between the two Djokovic has got to be considered the favourite.

What could throw a spanner in the works of both of them is the success that tall people have had in the warm up grass tournaments. People like Anderson, Karlovic, Isner, and Cilic are all very much capable of upsetting the big names in the early rounds of Wimbledon. The one who looked most promising before his capitulation against Simon at Queen’s was Raonic, arguably the most complete and athletic tall man on the tour and for me the dark horse of the competition. You can also never count out people like Nadal, Berdych, Niskikori, and Tsonga on grass, and Seppi and Simon both had excellent tournaments in the last week so they could both do well but again I only really see one winner and that’s Djokovic, but I thought that at the French Open and that didn’t happen so you never know.

Late French Open Results

Although I was completely wrong with all of my predictions I loved how unpredictable the French Open was this year and this is just a short little post to express how happy I am that Stan Wawrinka took the title. He was so impressive throughout the tournament and his physical and mental power and focus in that final was phenomenal to watch. I do still think that Djokovic will win a French Open title at some point but this year just wasn’t his time. Looking forward to the grass season now (although it has already started how late I’m posting this).

French Open Predictions

I can only really see one person winning the French Open this year and that is Novak Djokovic. He has simply been unstoppable all year and with Nadal’s clay form fleeting in the run-up to this tournament I can’t see him getting close to Novak. Andy Murray as much as I can’t stand him has been really impressive on clay but mentally Djokovic has his number and that shows every time they play each other. Federer is always the favourite in my head just because I always want him to win everything but he just doesn’t have the physicality to compete with Djokovic anymore. I think there are two dark horses in the competition, possibly even three with how Wawrinka has been playing in the last month but Kei Niskikori and Tomas Berdych are both excellent on clay and in excellent form. I still don’t think either of them can compete with Djokovic on top form but if he isn’t having the best of days and a few mistakes creep in either one of them can easily capitalize. Nishikori is quickly becoming one of my new favourites and I hope he does manage a grand slam sooner rather than later but I feel like in the form he is in this year that Djokovic is simply unstoppable on any surface.