Author Archives: dantheopinionatedman22

Federer Vs. Cilic: Australian Open Final Preview

Roger Federer will be gunning for his twentieth Grand Slam trophy in Melbourne tomorrow, and if his record against his opponent is anything to go by, he will likely claim it.

The Swiss leads Croatia’s Marin Cilic 8-1 in their head-to-head, Cilic’s sole victory against Federer coming in the US Open semis in 2014, off of the back of a gruelling five setter in which the Swiss barely survived against Monfils. The pair last med in a Slam last year when they contested the Wimbledon Final, a lopsided affair in which Cilic folded against a superior players variety, as well as the occasion and a blister conspiring to limit his effectiveness.

Federer goes into the decider having not dropped a set, whilst Cilic had an almost five setter against Nadal in the quarters, as well as dropping a set each earlier in the tournament against Pospesil and Carreno Busta. Federer will certainly then be the fresher of the two, and Cilic is naturally slower than the Swiss at the best of times, and lacks his opponents agility.

Most importantly though in the context of this match is that it is simply a bad matchup. Cilic has weapons, but sometimes is content to rally, and Federer likely will pounce on this as he has before. Whilst Cilic possesses a big serve and solid groundstrokes, none are huge, and with Federer constantly pressuring with his own aggression, gaining plenty of free points with his serve, and manoeuvring the Croat around, taking advantage of his opponents relative slowness and tendency to stay behind the baseline, I can only see this match going one way if the Swiss is injury free and firing on most of his cylinders.

Merely on account of Cilic’s pedigree as a Slam winner, and his taking a set off Federer at the Year End Championships last November, I can foresee his taking a set if he serves a high percentage.

Winner: Federer in four sets.

 

 

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How Far Can Kyle Edmund Go?

I have enjoyed watching Kyle Edmund’s progression as a player over the last two years. Although yet to win a main tour title, I believe that his run to the Australian Open Semi Finals indicates that he is the real deal, with the tools and the mind-set to enjoy a solid career.

He possesses one of the best forehands in the game, and his serve, whilst not as powerful as some of his peers, remains a weapon that gives him regular free points, as well as setting up his forehand which he uses to dictate play. The backhand has at times looked suspect, but it seems to have improved and is certainly not a weakness. Some commentators have noted his improved movement and fitness, Kyle himself has admitted that he has been guilty of not putting in the man hours required to stay with opponents in the longer matches.

This tournament, whatever the outcome, should stand him in good stead mentally. He has beaten en-route to the semis a grand slam finalist, Kevin Anderson, as well as the in form Grigor Dimitrov, ranked 3 in the world. His run has seen him tough out matches, including a pair of five setters. This is quite a turnaround even from two months ago when Kyle led Jack Sock in the deciding set 5-1, only to choke and lose the set and the match.

With his improved fitness and self belief, combined with his powerful game, I think Edmund could be a staple of the top ten for some years, competing for big titles with regularity. With players seemingly peaking more and more in their mid to late twenties, there is still time also for him to improve, combining his weapons and improved mental strength with more tactical nuance as he gains more experience.

I have read in the past that clay is Edmund’s preferred surface, and one can see why with his big forehand setup and height being ideal attributes for the dirt, and I foresee him enjoying better results on slower surfaces generally. The decline of the dominant ‘Big Four’ will usher in I believe a period where men’s tennis will be something of a free for all, the larger titles hanging ripe for picking from anyone who can string a series of good matches together. I am not convinced that Edmund could necessarily dominate the game, but I expect him to use his growing belief and talents to consistently challenge for the sports top titles.

 

Australian Open: Day 3 Matches of Interest

Men

Djokovic vs Monfils

Although Djokovic has won all of his 14 matches against Monfils, the Serb is playing only his second competitive match in six months. The mercurial Frenchman meanwhile is fresh from a title in Doha a week ago, and with this medium quick surface his serve and easy power could prove a massive banana skin for the six time champion.

Benneteau vs Goffin

Goffin enjoyed a career year in 2017, winning two titles, finishing runner up at the year end championships, and leading Belgium into the Davis Cup Final. His French opponent though should not be underestimated. Benneteau is a solid professional, finishing runner up in ten ATP singles tournaments, as well as having reached a career high ranking of twenty five. Also, he inflicted a defeat on Goffin at the Paris Masters last November.

Kudla vs Thiem

Thiem, a winner of eight titles and a consistent fixture of the top ten, starts this match heavily favoured. His American opponent though will be full of confidence having dispatched his compatriot and former top thirty player Steve Johnson.

Gasquet vs Sonego

Sonego, ranked in the world’s top two hundred, with only his first tour win coming against Hasse this week, is an unknown quantity. We all know of the calibre of Gasquet, the Frenchman being the winner of fourteen titles and ranked as high as seven in 2007, but he can be highly inconsistent, and his unheralded opponent will have nothing to lose trying to continue the best week of his short career so far.

Women

Pera vs Konta

Konta was one of the standout players of the last season, winning one of the biggest tournaments on tour in Miami, reaching as well two semi finals at the majors, and reaching a career high of four in the world. Her opponent is in her maiden draw of a major, and only has ITF titles to her name, but nobody reaches the second round of a slam other than on merit, and Konta’s low margin game makes her vulnerable on an off day.

 

Five Significant Matches That Federer Ought To Have Won Against Nadal

This year has witnessed a remarkable renaissance in the careers of Federer and Nadal, each winning a clutch of titles, splitting the majors and finishing the year ranked 1 and 2 respectively. The most surprising though is how Federer has been able to turn the tables on his tormentor, winning all four of their encounters, and bring a lopsided head-to-head record of 11-23 against Rafa to a more respectable 15-23.

It is my humble opinion though that Federer ought to have a more even record, even in spite of the fact that the Spaniards athleticism and left-handed topspin was always going to prove a formidable barrier for the Swiss.

Below you will find five matches that I think Federer ought to have won against Nadal that I think have proven significant in producing a different dynamic to their rivalry.

Dubai Final, 2006

The fast playing surface of Dubai has been a happy hunting ground for the Swiss, rewarding his attacking play. In this relatively early stage of the pairs famed rivalry, Federer let slip a one set to love lead, losing the next two 6-4 6-4. I believe that Federer losing here was an early sign of the writing on the wall, with Federer struggling until this year to figure out Nadal for the most part on outdoor hard courts.

Rome Final, 2006

This five hour epic was one of the greatest matches the pair have contested. They both slugged it out, leaving everything on the court. Federer squandered a match point in the deciding set, his rival denying him a significant piece of silverware on clay as would so often be the case throughout their careers. 2006 was Federer’s best season in terms of matches lost, surrendering just the four. I think losing such a close match at the peak of his powers left a lasting mark, contributing to a psychological barrier against the Spaniard on this surface in particular.

Cincinnati Quarterfinal, 2013

2013 was a bleak season for the Swiss. He suffered his earliest loss at Wimbledon since 2002, the defending champion crashing out in the second round. A persistent back injury plagued him that year, resulting in his winning only a single title on the grass at Halle, a tournament he has dominated. Federer suffered some heavy defeats that year to a resurgent Rafa, three of the four of them on slow courts at Indian Wells, Rome and London. The other loss at Cincinnati though I believe could have been averted. These quick hard courts have always been kind to Roger, with seven titles there, and five at the time of this match. he took the first set, and played well in the second and third, but lost edge and confidence in both to surrender a match that could have seen him go on to win his only significant title that year.

Australian Open Final, 2009.

It is understandable why for many the pairs epic tussle in the 2008 Wimbledon Final is regarded as the greatest match of all time. It was indeed epic in length, the stakes high, and the narrative of a declinging Federer attempting to fend off a rival growing in strength, forcing a decider and surviving match points after being two sets down, before succumbing to Rafa’s relentless play and the darkness to lose in the deciding set.

For my money though their next Grand Slam match, the 2009 Australian Open Final was a higher quality match. Both men played for the most part consistently clean, aggressive tennis, and the seesawing and swings of momentum made this match seem more of an even contest than the Wimbledon Final the previous year. Federer consistently hit winners on his weaker backhand side, and really took it to Nadal. Federer though suffered for having squandered leads in the first and third sets of the match, both of which he lost, and I believe what both players knew what ought to have been a three or four set win to the Swiss impacted their play in the fifth, Federer choking in the decider and Nadal not giving an inch, breaking twice to win the decider.

For Federer to have played so well and lost, winning more points than his opponent, and being reduced to tears in the trophy ceremony, for me had a lasting impact on his play when facing the Spaniard.

French Open Final, 2011.

Federer was for me the player of the tournament during the 2011 French Open. He played with purpose and aggression, taking advantage of the faster tennis balls and a partisan crowd in dismantling many opponents en route to the semi-finals, before winning one of the matches of the season when he defeated that years dominant player, Djokovic, in four dramatic sets, inflicting on the Serb his first loss that year. Nadal by contrast looked unconvincing at times at a tournament he had dominated, barely surviving a five set nail biter against John Isner, afterwards playing himself into form to en route to the final.

Nadal started the match tentatively, surrendering serve early whilst Federer had a set point, losing it with a drop shot that missed by millimetres. This took the wind out of the Swiss players sails, the Spaniard going on to take the opener, as well as claiming another closely contested set in the second. Federer could have been forgiven for losing the will to keep going at this point, but he found his fight and took the third set reasonably convincingly, before the Spaniard closed out the match by taking the fourth set 6-1, the Swiss visibly tired at this point.

Although Nadal was always the favourite going into this match, such is his clay court pedigree, Federer must rue the fact that he played three brilliant sets, but just won the one.

The Monarchy Is The Opiate Of The People: Some Couple Got Engaged – First Thoughts

Usually I am ever quick to offer on social media my opinions on current affairs (as my ever depleting friend count can attest to). It took me some time though to gather my thoughts on this momentous announcement.

I am so glad that this story led the news bulletins, it matters so much more to me than my wish for an independent Kurdistan, the revised down GDP figures, terrorist atrocities, and the precarious situation with the Irish border question.

We will all remember where we were when we first were when we first saw the news. I myself was trying to drag myself out of bed and prepare for a precarious temp job, worrying if I’d ever enjoy secure work and one day own a home, or whether my epileptic activity would one day abate, allowing me to use the driving licence I spent precious money and time trying to attain.

Looking at my twitter feed yesterday morning I put aside such trifles. The news that a couple that neither know or care of my existence, who will experience more luxury and wealth in a day than I am likely to in a lifetime, has made my week, nay, it has made my year.

Shanghai Masters Final Preview: Federer vs Nadal XXXVIII

This years Shanghai Masters Final pits two best players of the season, and likely of all time, against each other. Federer and Nadal’s comebacks from career derailing injuries, particularly at relatively advanced ages for tennis players, has made this one of the most storied seasons in tennis history. 

Both have dominated the tour and the majors, winning at their respective favourite slams, the Swiss winning Wimbledon, and the Spaniard the French Open, as well as bookending the grand slam season with a hard court slam apiece, Roger beating Rafa in the final in Australia, and Rafa sweeping aside all comers last month in New York.

These two all-time greats thrive on hard courts, and tomorrow will be an interesting moment in their rivalry, Federer hitting the ground running in winning the Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami at the start of the season, whilst Nadal has taken longer to find his feet, losing in the finals of Australia, Acapulco and Miami, but mostly dominating in his winning runs in New York and Beijing last week.

Although Federer was hindered with a back injury in Montreal and New York, he appears to be fighting fit again, advancing to the final mostly untroubled, but for losing a set against Del Potro in the semis. Nadal’s campaign in the Far-East has been a little more shakey, dropping a set this week and in Beijing last week against ‘Baby Fed’ Grigor Dimitrov, as well as last week saving a match point before defeating Lucas Pouille.

Federer has won all three meetings against his great rival this year, making something of a dent in their lopsided head-to-head record that Nadal leads. Significantly all of these matches have been on hard courts, and what’s more, slow hard courts. His wins against Nadal in Australia, Indian Wells and Miami were all on surfaces traditionally regarded as playing at a medium to slow pace with the balls bouncing high, Nadal often in the past utilising this and his topspin to beat Federer’s backhand into submission. The Swiss has turned the Spaniards strategy on its head, utilising his larger racket and sweet spot to defend successfully on that wing, as well as taking the ball on the rise and down the line, at times doing more damage to Rafa this year with that shot down the line than his much hailed forehand.

Shanghai is generally considered to have quicker hard courts than many of the other events played on that surface, yielding lower bounces, and this should benefit Federer who will look to implement his attacking game and superior serve to good effect. If Dimitrov, an all-court player like the Swiss, albeit with less natural power and an at times suspect backhand can cause Nadal such trouble, Roger who does all these things better ought to outfox his opponent with his superior variety and ability to take away time and rhythm from him.

Winner: Federer in two tight sets

Brief Preview: Federer vs Lopez, US Open 3rd Round

A lot of questions remain unanswered regarding Federer’s form and fitness this US Open. After a back injury flared up two weeks ago in the Montreal Final, he pulled out of Cinncinatti where he is usually dominant, and struggled against the talented up and coming Tiafoe in the first round, and the veteran and two-time Open Semi-finalist Youzhny, being stretched by both to five sets in the first two rounds.

Although the Swiss has stated his back is better, citing lack of practice being as much a reason for these scrappy wins as anything, he has looked tentative during spells with his movement.

Lopez will prove a dangerous opponent for Roger. The Spaniard seems to be drinking from the fountain of youth, and has been in reasonable form this year, securing his biggest title on the grass at Queens Club. He possesses one of the best serves on tour, and volleys well, both a great asset on the medium-quick courts at Flushing Meadows.

Although this will be the highest ranked opponent Federer will face thus-far, I think his last two presented problems that Lopez will not, namely that both hit big ground strokes off both wings, able to move Federer about and exacerbating any lingering movement problems. Aside from his killer serve, which will no doubt contribute to many of his own free points, Lopez almost exclusively slices his backhand, and his forehand, whilst solid, is more accurate than solid. Federer will thus be under little pressure when Lopez is returning his serve, and during neutral rallies will be able to target Lopez’ backhand side and attack consistently.

Not an easy opponent, but I predict Federer will prevail in four sets