Monday, 31 December 2012

WTA Brisbane: Arvidsson upsets Stosur

Sam Stosur revealed a few days ago that she had undergone ankle surgery during the off-season and that certainly brought into context a disappointing first round loss in the Brisbane International to Sofia Arvidsson, 7-6(4) 7-5.  I had actually tipped Stosur to fall early in this tournament so it did not come as a great surprise to me.  The big shock was the fall of Caroline Wozniacki, who was spectacularly bundled out by Ksenia Pervak, 2-6 3-6 7-6(1).  I have never rated Pervak and always saw her as a less effective version of the Dane; however on this occasion she took the game to Wozniacki at the crucial stages of the matches and fully deserved her first ever top 10 win.  

In other matches, Sabine Lisicki produced her best performance away from a grass court for quite sometime as she easily dispatched Lucie Safarova, 6-2 6-4.  Sloane Stephens was also impressive in a first ever top 20 win over Dominika Cibulkova, 6-2 6-3.  I predicted big things for the American player this year in my preview for the WTA season and I am still confident she will knocking on the door of the top 10 by the season's end...

Sunday, 30 December 2012

ATP Doha: Preview and Predictions

The ATP is also very busy this week with three tournaments gracing the schedule in Doha, Brisbane and Chennai.

ATP Doha
Doha has always been the flagship event in the first week of the year, often attracting at least one of the big four; however this has been a tough year for the event in Qatar because Roger Federer has opted out of the event and Rafael Nadal remains sidelined by stomach/knee problems.  David Ferrer has now been boosted to the top seed and will fancy his chances of yet another tournament win following a staggering seven titles in 2012.  Ferrer takes on a qualifier in the first round and should not be tested with Pablo Andujar and Mikhail Youzhny the highest seeds he can face before the final.

At the other end of the draw, the number two seed and barely-clinging-onto-the-top-10, Richard Gasquet will also open against a qualifier and could face an all French semi-final if Jeremy Chardy can progress through the draw.  All in all, this tournament is unlikely to set the world alight and it will be a surprise if the top two do not make the final.

Final Prediction: Ferrer d. Gasquet
Full Predictions for Doha HERE

ATP Brisbane
Brisbane offers the most varied draw with a handful of quality players hoping to offer some resistance to Andy Murray who is defending the title,  The Brit, who suffered a straight sets loss to Janko Tipsarevic in the Abu Dhabi Exhibition, plays Tatsuma Ito or a qualifier in the opening round and is projected to meet Martin Klizan in the quarter-finals; the Slovak could easily be upstaged by Denis Istomin in the first round or either Radek Stepanek or Lleyton Hewitt who play each other in one of the most interesting first rounders.

Alexandr Dolgopolov and Kei Nishikori are likely to meet in the second quarter-final, meanwhile Florian Mayer and Gilles Simon are the highest seeds in the third quarter.  Milos Raonic bookends the draw and faces a tricky second rounder against Grigor Dimitrov or Brian Baker.  In the bottom half, I fancy the unseeded Marcos Baghdatis and David Goffin to both progress to the quarter-finals, but ultimately it should be plain sailing for a fully charged Murray... if not, then Nishikori will be next in line to take this title.

Final Prediction: Murray d. Simon
Full Predictions for Brisbane HERE

ATP Chennai:
The final event in Chennai looks to be an awfully one-sided affair with a solid top four, but nothing else of note.  Tomas Berdych and Marin Cilic are projected to meet in the first semi-final, and Stanislas Wawrinka and Janko Tipsarevic in the second one.  Robin Haase and Benoit Paire are the only other players that I see barely threatening the top four in this draw.  I am not sure about Berdych's chances for 2013 at this moment so I am going for Cilic to start the season strongly with the Chennai title.

Final Prediction: Cilic d. Tipsarevic
Full Predictions for Chennai HERE

WTA Auckland: Preview and Predictions

The entire WTA top 10 will kick off their season this week with Agnieszka Radwanska headlining the event in Auckland and Li Na topping the bill in Shenzhen.  Lets take a look at the draws...

WTA Auckland:
Agnieszka Radwanska will play a qualifier in the first round and is projected to meet Yaroslava Shvedova in the quarter-finals.  The world number three has opted to stay away from the big guns in Brisbane, which is a wise choice in terms of gaining ranking points.  She is my unsurprising pick to win in Auckland.  The reigning champion, Zheng Jie is in the second quarter and is seeded to meet Sorana Cirstea in the quarter-finals.  Cirstea takes on the rising Brit, Heather Watson in the first roundSvetlana Kuznetsova, who is making her first appearance since Wimbledon, is in this section too and could play Cirstea/Watson in the second round if she can make it past Kiki Bertens in her first match.

Christina McHale and Yanina Wickmayer headline the third section of the drawWickmayer has always done well at this event, having won in 2010 and reaching the final in 2011; however I do not have her going deep in the draw following her recent struggles with injuries.  McHale's 2012 season was cut short through illness and I think it will take her sometime to find her feet in 2013... my tip is for the unseeded Kirsten Flipkens to go deep in the draw.  The final quarter-final is likely to be an all-German affair between Julia Goerges and Mona Barthel and both should be largely untroubled in the early stages.
Final Prediction - Agnieszka Radwanska d. Mona Barthel
1st Round Predictions - Vesnina to beat Bouchard in 3 sets, Zheng to beat Hampton in 3 sets, Watson to beat Cirstea in 2 sets and Rybarikova to beat Wickmayer in 2 tight sets

View my full predictions for Auckland HERE

WTA Shenzhen:
I see absolutely no point in this new tournament in Shenzhen gracing an already packed first week.  The overall quality of the draw is disappointing and Li Na should have no problems in becoming the first ever champion in Shenzhen.  Li takes on Mandy Minella in the first round and should meet Bojana Jovanovski in the quarter-finals.  In fact, the highest seed Li could face before the final is the world number 25, Hsieh Su-Wei.  

Hsieh had a stunning 2012 and I think she will continue to be solid in 2013 with her unique game.  The bottom half is dominated by Marion Bartoli and Jelena Jankovic; Bartoli could come unstuck against the young and talented Timea Babos in round two, meanwhile Jankovic may have to contest with Laura Robson in the quarter-finals, who has already made it into the second round where she will take on Monica Niculescu. 

Final Prediction - Li Na d. Jelena Jankovic

1st Round Predictions - Jovanovski to beat Cadantu in 2 sets, Hlavackova to beat Zakopalova in 3 sets and Svitolina to beat Peer in 3 sets

View my full predictions for Shenzhen HERE

Brisbane kicks off, Serena and Kvitova win through to round two

Petra Kvitova
Brisbane is already underway and we have not even made it to 2013 yet! Serena Williams and Petra Kvitova began their campaigns today and both were victorious in straight sets.  Serena battled through windy conditions as she eased past Varvara Lepchenko, 6-1 6-2, meanwhile Kvitova defeated Carla Suarez Navarro, 6-3 6-4.  It was a pretty solid opener from Kvitova who dropped serve twice and will play Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the second round. Pavlyuchenkova produced a surprisingly efficient serving performance to beat Lucie Hradecka in 3 sets; could this be the season where Pavlyuchenkova finally realises her potential? Finally, a congratulations to Jarmila Gajdosova who made her comeback to the tour with a win over Roberta Vinci.  This was her first main draw win since May following nine losses on the bounce.

In Shenzhen, the first couple of matches got underway as Laura Robson started the 2013 season in fine form with a comfortable 6-2 6-1 victory over Edina Gallovits-Hall.  The Hopman Cup has also begun with Australia (Tomic/Barty), Spain (Verdasco/Medina Garrigues) and USA (Isner/Venus) all enjoying early wins.  The sad news is the withdrawal of Andrea Petkovic, who has suffered yet another knee injury.  Thankfully, she announced on Twitter that she had ruptured the meniscus in her knee and that it was not her anterior cruciate ligament, which sidelined her in 2008.  The injury is still likely to keep her out of action for some considerable time.

Highlights from the first day of action in Brisbane

Saturday, 29 December 2012

WTA Brisbane: Preview and Predictions

Victoria Azarenka
The engines of the WTA are revving as the first draws have been released following a state of hibernation that has stretched back to the 4th of November when Nadia Petrova won the final competitive match of 2012 in Sofia.  It is now time for the stars of the game to shake off the cobwebs and get their racquets ready for the start of 2013.  The new tennis season will begin with a bang as eight of the top ten open their seasons down under in Brisbane.

Analysis of the draw:
The top two in the world, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova have byes into the second round and have drawn entirely different draws.  Azarenka has by far the toughest and will have to hit the ground running when she takes on either Lucie Safarova or Sabine Lisicki in her first match of 2013.  The Safarova/Lisicki match is the most intriguing of the first rounders with both being extremely unpredictable.  I am backing Safarova to win, who impressed at the end of 2012 with her Fed Cup routs of Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic.  Azarenka could meet Caroline Wozniacki in the last eight, in what would be a first match-up since 2011.  The Dane will first have to get past good friend, Urszula Radwanska or Tamira Paszek, who beat her in their last match-up at Wimbledon, which was my favourite match of 2012.

Sharapova has the "cakewalk" draw with an Italian duo set to greet her in Brisbane.  She is likely to meet Roberta Vinci in the second round (2-0 head-to-head) and then the number 6 seed, Sara Errani in the quarter-finals (2-0 head-to-head).  Errani could play Daniela Hantuchova in the second round; the Slovakian player, who reached the Brisbane final last year, could have the edge over Errani on this quick surface.  

Serena Williams will open her 2013 campaign against fellow American, Varvara Lepchenko.  Her draw is straightforward allowing time for the early season rust to be shaken off.  Serena's projected quarter-final opponent is Sam Stosur, who I have marked down as my early casualty; she takes on Sofia Arvidsson, who is particularly dangerous on fast court surfaces.  I would also watch out for the first round match between Sloane Stephens and Dominika Cibulkova, which should be very close.

Angelique Kerber and Petra Kvitova are destined to clash in the final quarter-final.  Kerber should have no difficulty in making the quarter-finals as she takes on Anna Tatishvili in the first round.  Kvitova has some potential banana skins to avoid; Carla Suarez Navarro will await in the first round, who gave Kvitova a scare in their second round match at the Australian Open last year.  Kvitova's second match, if she is prevail, would be against Lucie Hradecka or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, both extremely competent on their day.

QF Predictions:
Azarenka vs. Wozniacki
S.Williams vs. Arvidsson
Kvitova vs. Kerber
Hantuchova vs. Sharapova

Final Prediction - Maria Sharapova d. Victoria Azarenka
The first tournament of the season is always very difficult to call; for example, I do not think many people would have backed Kaia Kanepi to win Brisbane last year.  Serena will have some significant rust to shake off following minor surgery on her toes and I think she will fall in the semi-finals to Azarenka.  My two favourites for the title are Sharapova and Kvitova, who I think will meet in the semi-finals.  I fancied Kvitova from the start, but she has a tough draw and there is still some uncertainty in her form so that is why I have gone for Sharapova to win.

You can view my full predictions for Brisbane HERE

Moo's Tennis Blog is officially up and running now for the 2013 tennis season! Further previews will follow tomorrow :-)

Monday, 24 December 2012

Tennis in 2013... One week to go!

There is just one week left until the beginning of the 2013 tennis season! In fact, the exhibition event in Abu Dhabi is just a few days away where Rafael Nadal will make his long awaited comeback from injury.  Many of the players are now starting their journeys across the world to the first tournaments of the year.  I will be enjoying Christmas before full speed ahead for my first predictions of the year for Brisbane, Auckland, Shenzhen, Doha and Chennai... It's nearly time :-)))

Goodbye to 2012... What will 2013 deliver?
To all readers of Moo's Tennis Blog, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year :-)

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The 2013 tennis season beckons: Brisbane, Auckland and Doha ready for kick-off

Victoria Azarenka
As the 2012 tennis season wrapped up I was thankful for a breather from tennis.  It was such a great, great year, but not only did the players need a break, I did too! Its now mid-December and I am fully craving tennis once more and ready to rock and roll with my predictions

The first week is packed with 3 WTA events, 3 ATP events and of course, the Hopman Cup in Perth.  The women will start 2013 in Brisbane, Auckland and Shenzhen in China, which will host a new International event.  Year on year, Brisbane's field of player has been improving and this year is no different as they have managed to attract eight of the top ten including the big three in Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams, which could give us some early indication of form going into the Australian Open.  They are joined by Angelique Kerber, Petra Kvitova and home favourite, Sam Stosur.

Auckland has attracted the world number three, Agnieszka Radwanska and a host of quality players too.  The defending champion, Zheng Jie, Julia Goerges, Mona Barthel and sure-to-be resurgent Russians, Vera Zvonareva and Svetlana Kuznetsova will be battling for the title.  Li Na will headline the Shenzhen Open along with fellow Chinese player, Peng Shuai, Marion Bartoli and Jelena Jankovic.  It is also worth nothing from a British persepctive that Heather Watson will open in Auckland, meanwhile Laura Robson will be a seed in the Shenzhen draw.  Auckland is one of my favourite International events and it should be a wide open draw this year.

Andy Murray
Moving onto the ATP, Brisbane is a joint event and Andy Murray is returning to defend the title he won last year.  He is joined by a number of talented up-and-comers with Milos Raonic, Alexandr Dolgopolov and Kei Nishikori all starting their season in Brisbane.  Doha looks considerably weaker this year compared to previous years as Roger Federer will play no warm-up tournaments before the Australian Open.  Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer are the top two seeds with only four of the current top 20 taking part.  The final ATP event takes place in Chennai, India where a respectable top four of Tomas Berdych, Janko Tipsarevic, Marin Cilic and Stanislas Wawrinka are the only highlights of a line-up that lacks any strength in depth with a number of players outside of the top 100 making the main draw.

The Hopman Cup is one of the most unique events on tour and one of my favourite too.  Eight nations consisting of one female and one male player will battle it out in a series of encounters featuring two singles matches and a mixed doubles match.  The tournament, which will be contested at a new 15,500 arena features a stunning line-up; Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic (Serbia) are the top seeds, but will be hotly chased by Venus Williams/John Isner (USA), Andreas Seppi/Francesca Schiavone (Italy) and Tommy Haas/Andrea Petkovic (Germany).

I will be continuing with my blog all throughout 2013 and do hope you will continue to read... please feel free to leave comments in response to all my predictions :-)

Monday, 10 December 2012

ATP Predictions for 2013

I have already discussed where I think the women are heading in 2013 and its now time for my ATP predictions for 2013.  Next year promises to be another intriguing one with each of the top four earning one Grand Slam in 2012 and no dominant figure emerging through.  Here we go...

I predict that Novak Djokovic will maintain his world number one status with another super consistent year and two more Grand Slams to add to his total tally.  During the course of 2012, he dipped between the French Open and the Olympics, but bookended the year with the Australian Open and World Tour Finals title.  The tennis he has played over the past two years has been quite astonishing and he demonstrated this year that 2011 was no fluke.  I think the end of 2012 saw the beginning of the emerging rivalry with Andy Murray, which will become the one to watch on tour in 2013.  I believe Murray will win another Grand Slam in 2013, most likely Wimbledon where he came so close this year.  The Brit has broken the floodgates this year and although I do not think he will reign supreme, he will have another successful year winning several Masters 1000 events.

1. Novak Djokovic
Juan Martin Del Potro is my tip to break the elusive top four.  He threw together an excellent 2012, peaking towards the end of the season where he muscled in on the World Tour semi-finals and was one set away from the final.  If he can stay injury free, I have no doubt he's going to be a real threat in 2013.  Roger Federer slips two places to number four in my predictions.  There have been so many discussions and debates whenever Federer has a disappointing loss that he should hang up his tennis shoes.  I think he is still going to be very consistent on tour, but it has been well publicised that he will be playing a shorter calendar in 2013 with Doha, Basel and most significantly, Miami all omitted from his current schedule; with that in mind, I really cannot seeing him maintaining a top two spot...

3. Juan Martin Del Potro
You can just cannot count out David Ferrer and the seven-time titlist in 2012 is bound to be up there once more.  Perhaps he will not win quite so many titles in 2013 and I still cannot see a Grand Slam ever being added on his resume; however I think at least one more Grand Slam semi-final will beckon next year.  Tomas Berdych stays at number six in my predictions.  The hard-hitting Czech has been knocking on the door for quite a while, but has never quite mastered the consistency or mental toughness, although steadily improving, to completely breakthrough against the top guys.  I think he will reach another Grand Slam final in 2012, but will have to settle for a runner-up spot once more.  Rafael Nadal  is due to make a comeback at the exhibition event in Abu Dhabi later this month, ready for the first Grand Slam in Australia.  However I think it will take him sometime to hit top form again having missed the last six months.  He struggled last time he had a lengthy spell on the sidelines in 2009 and next year will be even tougher.

6. Tomas Berdych
My first new entry into the top 10 is Kei Nishikori.  The Japanese player impressed towards the end of 2012 with a stunning title run in Tokyo and I think he has the game and mental attributes to continue his assault up the rankings.  He missed a good two months of the 2012 season and I think like Del Potro, if he stay fit and healthy, then 2013 will be a great year for him.  Jo-Wilfried Tsonga drops one place to nine with another so-so year.  Tsonga is now coached by Roger Rasheed, Gael Monfil's former coach.  I think this is a positive move, but whether he can help the Frenchman to flourish against the big guns is another question.  My final slot in the ATP top ten for 2013 goes to Marin Cilic.  The Croatian was consistently posting solid results in 2012 and although mentally, I question whether he has the stickability factor, his game is strong enough to creep into the top 10.

10. Marin Cilic
Moving down:
Perhaps its because I am not a fan, but I believe Janko Tipsarevic will drop out of the top ten.  His rather lame performance at the World Tour Finals (yes, OK he did have health issues) was the final straw for me although I still predict he will be top 15.  Juan Monaco peaked last year and I will be surprised if he can maintain that form next year.  Mardy Fish has been hit with some tough health problems and is unlikely to remain in the top 20 unless he makes a stunning comeback to the tour.  I also predict that Gilles Simon, Fernando Verdasco and Florian Mayer will all fall in the 2013 rankings.

Juan Monaco
Moving up:
Jerzy Janowicz was the big star in Paris at the end of this year.  He jumped up to number 26 by virtue of reaching the final and I think he can make the top 15 by 2013 if that run does not turn out to be just a flash in the pan.  Sam Querrey and David Goffin are on my list to make the top 20 with Grigor Dimitrov and Gael Monfils cracking the top 30.  Monfils missed much of 2012 with injury and should be able to make up ground if he can shake off the injuries.
David Goffin
The off season blues are certainly kicking in now, but not long to go! I will be previewing the first events of 2013 as the new tennis season beckons...

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

WTA Predictions for 2013

I have finished with my reviews of 2012 where I discussed my favourite matches for the WTA and ATP and crowned the first round match between Caroline Wozniacki and Tamira Paszek as my favourite WTA match and the Australian Open semi-final between Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic as my favourite ATP match of 2012. 

As we now as move into December, it is time to start previewing the 2013 season. I am beginning with my WTA predictions for 2013; I did a similar blog last year where I predicted that Petra Kvitova would be the world number one at the end of 2012.  Although I was wayward on my number one prediction, I was more successful in predicting that the likes of Zheng Jie, Mona Barthel and Carla Suarez Navarro would have good years.  Here are my predictions for the year-end top 10 in 2013 and for the movers and shakers in the top 100...

I anticipate another strong year for Azarenka, who will consolidate her number one ranking with at least one more Grand Slam to add to her trophy cabinet.  I think her commitment to the tour throughout the whole year will see her stay ahead of Serena.  The way Serena finished 2012, there is no doubt that she will rise from her current ranking of number 3. I think she could take the number one spot for a few months as she is defending few points in the first five months compared to the last five where she will be defending two Grand Slam titles, the YEC, and Stanford and Toronto too. I think Serena will dominate the Grand Slams because it is where she comes alive, but I still see Azarenka's remarkable consistency and appearance at the lesser tournaments, topping the table. 

1. Victoria Azarenka
Sharapova will still be up there but I think she will slip further behind Vika and Serena.  I do not think she will win a Grand Slam, but I fancy her to at least scoop a Premier Mandatory.  She began the season in imperious form in 2012 and will have to begin with a bang; this year she will join Serena and Azarenka in opening her season in Brisbane.  I fancy Kvitova to round out the top four and predict that she will rediscover some of her best form to take a Grand Slam.  Kvitova needs a big win over one of the top three to give her some confidence, which has been severely lacking since a tight loss to Sharapova in the Australian Open semi-finals.  Her game is big enough to live with the top three and she showed much more consistency in defeating the lower ranked players over the course of 2012.

3. Maria Sharapova
I think Radwanska and Kerber will fall slightly to 5 and 7 respectively, but will remain two of the most consistent performers on tour.  Radwanska will struggle to defend her final points from Wimbledon and a Grand Slam semi-final is the best I see for her in 2013.  Kerber has a grand old task on her hands to be as consistent as she was in 2012.  I do not think last year was a flash in the pan and although I think her form will be slightly more irratic, I see her making a maiden Grand Slam final.  Wozniacki moves up 4 places to 6 in my predictions.  She showed signs at the end of 2012 of making another move up the rankings and although she seems to be more interested in anything other than tennis during the off-season, I think that she will easily make up ground at the final two Grand Slams where she was knocked out in the opening round.

5. Agnieszka Radwanska
Li will benefit further from the wisdom of Carlos Rodriguez and remain a permanent fixture in the top 10 at my number 9; however he's not a miracle worker and her mental woes will still hold her back from reaching her maximum potential  The two new names I see entering the top 10 are Venus and Petrova.  Venus finished 2012 in style with a title win in Luxembourg and went from strength to strength in the latter half of 2012.  She showed very positive signs in dealing with her health problems and managed to reach number 34 in the world through just 13 tournaments.  She will be defending virtually no points in the early half of the season and at all four Grand Slams too.  My final choice was a toss-up between Petrova, Robson and Ivanovic, but I went for Petrova.  She looked extremely solid towards the end of 2012 and is ready for one final assault up the singles rankings...

8. Venus Williams
Going Down:
I believe that Sam Stosur, Sara Errani and Marion Bartoli will all move down the rankings in 2013.  Errani had an incredible 2012 and to defend the whopping amount of points she earnt this year will be a tough task; most notably finals at Roland Garros and semi-finals at the US Open.  I think the Italian will still have a very solid year, particularly on the clay but will fall into the 15-20's along with Bartoli and Stosur.  I am not quite sure why, but I have a feeling that Stosur will struggle next year.

Jelena Jankovic and Francesca Schiavone are two names who I see exiting the top 30 and the latter, I believe will retire during the year, perhaps at her fairytale Roland Garros.  Dominika Cibulkova has certainly reached her peak in the rankings and will fall to the mid-20's and I think Tamira Paszek will be hard pushed to remain in the top 30 as she defends big points on the grass where she was fantastic this year.  I also predict ranking drops for Roberta Vinci, Kaia Kanepi, Klara Zakopalova and Daniela Hantuchova.

Sara Errani... going down
Going Up:
Of all the up and comers, Laura Robson is the one who offers the most promise; I predict she will be top 15 at the end of this year and will be joined by Sloane Stephens who has made a more steady progression up the rankingsA risk, but one I am prepared to take, is to guess that Mona Barthel will make the top 20.  Despite a poor end to 2012, I have high hopes for the young German who needs a full-time coach to further her progression.  

The biggest movers for me will be Eugenie Bouchard and Annika Beck.  Bouchard won the Wimbledon Juniors title this year and made some big first steps on the pro-tour with a quarter-final appearance in Washington and an impressive showing against Li Na in Montreal.  The German conveyor belt has conjured up another talented German youngster in Beck, who finished the season on a ten match winning streak on the ITF tour.  She finished the pro-tour in Luxembourg where she came through qualifying and defeated Barbara Zahlavova Strycova to make the second round.  I fancy both to make the top 50 by year-end...

Vera Zvonareva had a terrible 2012 and is now languishing at a lowly 96 in the rankings.  I predict that now fully fit and rested, she will creep into the top 50, but no higher than top 30.  I am expecting similar from Andrea Petkovic who will find life tough next year.  Heather Watson will continue to rise with consistency the key for her to crack the top 30, which would be the best to expect from her in 2013.  I also predict that Yaroslava Shvedova, Aleksandra Wozniak, Kirsten Flipkens, Kiki Bertens and Jamie Hampton will all move the up the rankings in 2013.

Laura Robson... Going up
What are your predictions for the WTA in 2013?

Thursday, 29 November 2012

ATP Review: Best Matches of 2012

I have gone into great detail for my WTA choices, but this will just be a quick review looking at some of the best ATP encounters in 2012.  I haven't watched as much ATP tennis so a top 20 list would probably mean that I omit some key matches that I did not happen to watch.  Let's start with the Grand Slams...

The Australian Open
The Australian Open was the Grand Slam that produced the best matches of 2012.  One of the most entertaining matches of the whole year was the second rounder between Andy Murray and Michael Llodra.  Although Murray won comfortably in straight sets, the match was so much fun to watch and featured some extraordinary cat-and-mouse points at the net.  Another highlight was Bernard Tomic's five set win over Alexander Dolgopolov in a slice-and-dice sizzler of a match that was surprisingly and refreshingly great.

The best game from Murray and Llodra's cracking second round match at the Australian Open

The tournament really kicked into gear from the quarter-finals; the best of those was a hard-hitting encounter between Tomas Berdych and Rafael Nadal where Berdych had set points for a two set lead, but eventually succumbed to a 6-7(6), 7-6(6), 6-4, 6-3 loss.  Berdych's powerful flat groundstrokes were sensational for two sets; however Nadal gradually worked his way into the match and was at his tenacious best to make it into the semi-finals.

An incredible rally from the Berdych/Nadal quarter-final

The semi-finals were both fantastic; Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer held a superb contest with some stunning shot making, which Nadal prevailed in four sets, 6-7(5), 6-2, 7-6(5), 6-4.  Federer came out all guns blazing, but Nadal dug his way back as he recreated his come-from-behind performance against Berdych and bettered it with a string of stunning of passing shots helping him on his way. The second semi-final saw Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray contest an truly epic duel, a rollercoaster of ups and downs that saw the momentum swing rapidly from side to side in a dramatic decider

Highlights from the Federer/Nadal semi-final

The final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal was a breathless crescendo to what was a fantastic start to the season.  At 5 hours and 53 minutes, it was the longest ever Grand Slam final as both players received plaudits for their incredible stamina.  The pair put on a real show of physical and mental strength, but I think the match was actually overrated in terms of the quality of the tennis, which was scrappy for the first couple of sets.  No doubt a very good match, which burst into the life for the final two sets, but I think the length of this match was intensified by the amount of time that Nadal and Djokovic take between points.

Highlights from the Djokovic/Nadal match

My favourite match of the tournament and in fact, the whole year, was Djokovic and Murray's semi-final.  It was one of the few five setters I have been glued to the screen for its entirety.  Murray broke Djokovic to love when he served for the match at 5-3 in the deciding set and even had a break point at 5-5, which Djokovic extinguished with a cracking forehand down-the-line after another ridiculous rally.  Djokovic would eventually hold and complete an astonishing 6-3, 3-6, 6-7(4), 6-1, 7-5 victory.

Highlights from the Djokovic/Murray semi-final

The French Open
The French Open was rather flat for me this year; the best match on the mens side was the quarter-final between Novak Djokovic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.  The Frenchman began in lacklustre form as Djokovic waltzed into a 6-1 3-1 lead; however out of nowhere, Tsonga burst to life and found himself in the position to win the match in a titanic fourth set.  He had four match points, but Djokovic saved them with some cracking winners and astonishing defence.  Once Djokovic levelled the match at two sets all, the match was all but over as Tsonga wilted to a 6-1, 5-7, 5-7, 7-6(6), 6-1 loss.

Highlights from the Djokovic/Tsonga match

There were a handful of exciting encounters in the early rounds.  Roland Garros saw the rise of David Goffin who played his hero, Roger Federer in the 4th round and had him on the ropes for the first two sets before Federer won through in a tough four setter.  Federer's five set win over Juan Martin Del Potro in the quarter-finals was intriguing too, but they had some much better matches through the course of 2012.

Wimbledon was another historic Grand Slam and like the Australian Open, produced some fabulous contests.  The first week will be remembered for the biggest shock of 2012 with Lukas Rosol's giant slaying of Rafael Nadal in a second round 6-7(9), 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 victory.  The final set, which was played under the roof, saw some of the finest attacking tennis you are likely to see from Rosol, who closed the match out in staggering fashion with three aces and a forehand winner.

Highlights from the Nadal/Rosol match

My favourite mens match at Wimbledon this year was the third round match between Roger Federer and Julien Benneteau.  Benneteau was terrific for the first couple of sets with his brand of aggressive tennis completely overwhelming Federer.  Both played their part in a fabulous contest as Federer was two points from following Nadal on the sidelines before eventually turning the match around.  Benneteau seemed to be affected by an injury towards the end... god knows with this guy though because everytime I watch him he seems to be complaining of an injury.

Highlights from the Federer/Benneteau match

In the latter stages of the tournament, the final between Roger Federer and Andy Murray was an obvious highlight.  It was a good match, but not a great match in my eyes.  It may have been that watching as a Murray fan and wanting him to win, the match was rather tainted by the fact he didn't! The post match speech was the most heartfelt and memorable of the year.  I also enjoyed Andy Murray's hard fought quarter-final victory over David Ferrer, which featured some great baseline exchanges.

Highlights from Federer/Murray final

A great rally from the Ferrer/Murray quarter-final

US Open
The mens US Open was missing something this year, but there were some good matches in between the dross.  The final between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray was the ultimate definition of a slugfest and signalled the flourishing of a new quality rivalry on tour with Rafael Nadal stuck on the sidelines.  In light of the windy conditions, the pair played a great match on the Arthur Ashe stadium.

Three parter for the Djokovic/Murray highlights... many thanks to all the uploaders on YouTube for all this!

The best match though was the quarter-final between David Ferrer and Janko Tipsarevic.  I have to admit that I have taken a dislike to Tipsy recently following his comments on his Twitter account, but props to him and Ferrer for putting on some really terrific tennis for four and a half hours.  The final set was a real treat and got what it deserved in a final set tiebreak, which Ferrer won.

Highlights from the Ferrer/Tipsarevic match

Best of the rest:
The Spring American jaunt in Indian Wells and Miami was particularly disappointing for me this year.  The highlights though were John Isner's giant win over Novak Djokovic and the third round match in Miami between Roger Federer and Andy Roddick, which saw the American post a magnificent win in what would be their last ever encounter on the ATP tour following Roddick's retirement after the US Open.

Highlights from the Federer/Roddick match

During the warm up tournaments for the French Open, there were a number of stand-out matches such as the stunning final in Barcelona between Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer.  Ferrer played some great tennis and had Nadal on the ropes as he held four set points in a marathon 93-minute first set; however he would once again be second best to Nadal, who was epic on the decisive points.

Highlights from the Nadal/Ferrer match

The women threw up a stinker on the blue clay in Madrid and although the men were quick to complain, spearheaded by Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal's early losses, there were some fantastic matches.  The final between Roger Federer and Tomas Berdych was a highly competitive final and had a dramatic finale to boot.  

Federer's first match against Milos Raonic was a really entertaining match too and one that Raonic should have won; Raonic hit more winners and less unforced errors, but was outdone by Federer who picked up his game in a big way after a rusty start following a six week break.  Also, a mention to the match between David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro, which concluded with a fascinating third set tiebreak.

Highlights from the Federer/Raonic match

Highlights from the Ferrer/Almagro match

Moving onto Rome, the best match of a tournament was an absolute thriller and one of my favourite matches of the year as Andreas Seppi saved six match points to stun Stanislas Wawrinka across three tiebreak sets.  The rallies were superb, the drama was better and it was made all the more sweet on the incredibly atmospheric Pietriangeli court, which was alive with the Italian home support.

Highlights from Seppi/Wawrinka  

An extra week of grass court tennis for the Olympics was certainly a treat and has wetted the appetite for 2015 when the grass court season will be extended by one week.  The best match for me was the nail biting semi-final between Roger Federer and Juan Martin Del Potro, which saw the Swiss star win a 4 hour-and-28 minute, 3-6, 7-6(5), 19-17 epic.  Del Potro was at his powerful and battering best through stages of this match, but Federer's desire to reach the final shone through in the end; after several failed openings in the decider, Federer finally wrapped it up.   The longest match in terms of games saw Jo-Wilfried Tsonga edge Milos Raonic, 6-3, 3-6, 25-23 in an entertaining serve-dominated clash.

Highlights from Tsonga/Raonic match... a great home video on match point from someone in the crowd!

For the unsung match of the tournament, I would vote for John Isner's 7-5 7-6(14) win over Janko Tipsarevic.  I am not sure if people would have seen this one, but I was watching from the stands and it was a really great match, heightened by the epic second set tiebreak that saw Tipsarevic save six match points before eventually succumbing on a double fault.  Isner's serve was dynamite, but the rallies were long and won rather than lost with a total of 59 winners to just 22 unforced errors in the whole match.

Highlights from Isner/Tipsarevic where the Serb screamed at a young girl running around at the top the stands... I was sat several rows in front!

Andy Murray had a string of good matches too; his rematch with Marcos Baghdatis was very entertaining, but the semi-final win over Novak Djokovic was particularly pleasing.  It was an intense, hard-hitting and tight two-setter, their first ever encounter on the grass and hopefully many more to follow.

As the season wrapped up, Murray and Djokovic's final in Shanghai was certainly memorable.  Djokovic saved five match points in an absolutely titanic, 5-7, 7-6(11), 6-3 win and the best ATP match of 2012 away from the Grand Slams.  The rallies were gripping throughout and the added drama on the big points made this a classic.  Roger Federer and Juan Martin Del Potro also had a number of humdingers in Basel and at the World Tour Finals, both won by Del Potro as he turned the tables on Federer who had previously dominated all of their 2012 matches.

Highlights from Djokovic/Murray 

There were a few good matches at the O2 although no worldbeaters.  The final was excellent and easily, the best match of the tournament as Novak Djokovic came from behind in both sets to claim a 7-6(6), 7-5 victory over Roger Federer.  There were some excellent points, most notably in that first set tiebreak and on match point too.  It was a fitting end to what had been an excellent year of mens tennis.  Roll on 2013...

Highlights from Djokovic/Federer

COMING SOON - Previews and Predictions for the WTA and ATP in 2013