Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Grand Slam Board of Tennis to enforce new rules at 2018 Australian Open

The Grand Slam Board’s vote to amend several rules pertaining to Grand Slam play has got our team discussing the merits of each. What works, and what doesn’t?

The Grand Slam Board has met, with rule amendments high on its agenda.

And it was decided:

1) to support 2018 Australian Open’s application to the ITF for a waiver of the 20 seconds between points required by the Rules of Tennis, in order to allow for enforcement of a strict 25 seconds utilising a “serve/shot clock” system in line with that trialed at the 2017 US Open.

2) the timing of the pre-match warm-up will be strictly enforced (1 minute after walk-on to be ready for the pre-match meeting, followed by the 5 minute warm-up, then 1 minute to be ready to start the match). Violation of this timing may subject a player to a fine up to $20,000.

3) any main-draw singles player who is unfit to play and who withdraws on-site after 12pm on Thursday before the start of the main draw will now receive 50 per cent of the first-round prize money in 2018. The replacement “lucky loser” will receive the remaining 50 per cent plus any additional prize money earned thereafter.

4) any player who competes in the first-round main draw singles and retires or performs below professional standards, may now be subject to a fine up to first-round prize money in 2018.

5) the 2018 Grand Slam tournaments will continue with 32 seeds in singles and intend to revert to 16 seeds in 2019.

Love the shot clock rule, (I'm looking at you Nadal and Djokovic) and all the ones to do with money and penalties. 

Not sure what shortening the warm up will do.  Never found that a problem to begin with.  Shortening it down to 16 seeds in 2019 could make things interesting though.  


Monday, November 20, 2017

Roger Federer: "It's Been an Amazing Year"

It might not be the finish that he had hoped for, but Roger Federer is taking nothing for granted in his historic comeback season.

Federer’s 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 loss to David Goffin in the semi-finals of the Nitto ATP Finals might have come as a surprise, but not given the level of play that the seventh-seeded Belgian managed to produce after dropping the first set.

Maneuvering Federer around the court with his signature brand of pinpoint counterpunching tennis, Goffin claimed one of the biggest wins of his career just days after defeating World No.1 Rafael Nadal, becoming the sixth player in history to defeat both Federer and Nadal at the same tournament.

“I think it was a tough game to get broken at 1-0 for him in the second [set]. I had I think multiple game chances to get out of the game and go 1-1, keep the pressure up,” said Federer. “I think things really turned around for him at that moment. He started to feel better from the return, from the baseline. He wasn't missing as much anymore. He was returning also much better off the second serve after that.

“I just think the better returner won over the better server today.”

Despite failing to reach the final of the prestigious season-ending event for just the fifth time in 15 appearances, Federer punctuates a season of surprises with optimism for 2018.

“It’s been an amazing year for me. I’ve been so happy that I was playing at this level from the beginning till basically the end, till today. So it's been great. Really enjoyed myself in the process,” said the Swiss.

“Looking ahead, look, clearly the buildup is not going to be six months like it was last time around,” added the 36 year old. “It's not going to be six weeks of tennis. It's just going to be two, three weeks. It's going to be short. But I did that 15 years previously, so I know how to handle the buildup.”

After an injury-filled 2016 that saw him pull the plug on his season early in July that year, 2017 has been a roaring success. Bagging seven titles including two Grand Slams and three ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophies, Federer’s body held up throughout taxing periods of play that afforded him a high level of consistency throughout the year.

“I'm actually very relieved that I was able to finish strong ... It shows that things are in the past now. It's good to know that I can bounce back, you know, and get my confidence back.

“So considering how last year went, this year was perfect.”

Yet, what of next year? Although stalwarts Federer and Nadal remained consistent forces throughout the season, chief rivals such as Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka shut down their campaigns early to recover from their own damages – and if there is anyone who can relate, it’s Federer.

“We all had to take time off. I didn't choose to take the time off last year. You make me look like a genius sometimes. You take time off, you come back, you're good again. That's not how it goes.

“I expect obviously from the likes who have been extremely high up in the rankings, who have won slams, like Stan, Andy and Novak, of course I expect greatness from them,” added Federer. “I wouldn't be surprised if it worked out for them as well like it worked out for me and Rafa.”

With a huge cast of returning players, current Top 10 stars, and a handful of #NextGenATP talent rising up through the Emirates ATP Rankings, Federer anticipates a sizzling start to 2018 in Australia.

“I hope also Kei [Nishikori], Tomas [Berdych] and Milos [Raonic] all find their way back on tour and prefer to be in Australia because that would make it a quite epic comeback for all the guys. Then you mix them together with the new guys from the [Nitto ATP Finals] here who have just come off a great year... I think it could be a very cool start to the year, which I'm really looking forward to.”

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Roger Federer reveals plans for holiday break after loss to Goffin at ATP World Tour Finals

Federer was playing in his 14th semi-final at the season-ending tournament but lost for just the fourth time, Goffin triumphing 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

The Swiss dismissed claims that he was carrying an injury into the match but did admit he would be taking time away from the game after a long season.

“I’ll probably take two weeks off, two weeks' vacation,” Federer said.

“I feel like it's what we always need at the end of the season, not just myself, but my wife as well, and my kids, too.

“We all need to spend some family time together. We love that.

“Most important time of our lives, to spend the time together like that.”

Federer, father of four, took the second half of 2016 off to deal with knee and back injuries, returning to win two more Grand Slams this year.

He will end the year as world No 2, the oldest man ever to do so at 36, but the plans for his return in 2018 are already set with January’s Australian Open the first major target.

“I’ll start the beginning of December my training again,” Federer added.

“Maybe on vacation, obviously I'll start moving around a little bit so the comeback into training is not so hard, you know.

“Then I leave at the end of the year for the Hopman Cup to get ready.

“I think I'm playing on the 30th [of December], my first match. That's the plan there.”

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Roger Federer ends season early at ATP World Tour Finals with defeat to David Goffin in semis

Well, this was unexpected. Awkward, even, for the legions of fans who had bought tickets for this afternoon’s final in the hope of seeing Roger Federer. But David Goffin, the Belgian who had looked so short of energy in midweek, rewrote the script yesterday by overcoming Federer in one of the O2’s biggest upsets.
Bear in mind that Goffin had never come close to challenging Federer before, in six previous meetings. On Friday, he had sounded nonplussed at the prospect of this semi-final, saying “I’ve never found a key to beat Roger. Honestly, I don’t know what to do tomorrow.”
His low expectations were born out in the first set. Goffin was reduced to the role of a spectator as Federer toyed with him, tossing in cheeky drop-shots and scorching passing shots. But the worm turned early in the second set, when Goffin scored his first break of serve. Suddenly he was the man feeling the ball more cleanly on his racket.
Federer was a step slow around the court now, perhaps tiring at the end of a season that had already brought him seven titles. He couldn’t find a way to recover his early fluency. And although Goffin has had trouble closing against big names in the past – he struggled to finish off a hobbled Rafael Nadal here in his opening match on Monday – his serve helped him over the finish line when it came to the crunch. Two aces in the first two points of the decisive game got him off to the perfect start, and within a couple of minutes he had completed his 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 win.
“Words can’t describe how I am feeling,” Goffin told the on-court interviewer Annabel Croft. “So much joy, so much happiness, such a special moment.”
It was hard to reconcile this triumphant figure with the hag-ridden one who had lost 6-0, 6-2 to Grigor Dimitrov on Wednesday night. At that point, we wondered whether Goffin was carrying a significant problem in his knee, which he always tapes up, and there were real concerns that he might withdraw to prioritise his part in the Davis Cup final, which will pit Belgium against France in Lille next weekend. Yet if Goffin had no answers to “Baby Fed” – as Dimitrov is widely known, thanks to the visual similarities between the two men’s games – then he was ready to take down the senior version yesterday.

As for Federer, he had won all three of his group matches, but admitted yesterday that he had never quite settled into this tournament as he might have hoped. “I'm not that disappointed that I wasn't able to raise it,” he said, when asked about his level of play. “Because I just felt like I was never quite feeling it 100 per cent. I think that's also where maybe the frustration came in the previous matches.
“I still believed that I was going to be able to lift it. Maybe if David hadn’t been able to lift his game, I would have found a way to win today. Then who knows what happens in the finals. I give myself one more opportunity against a different type of playern
“There's no need to dwell over it, especially when it's the last match of the season. I wish I could have played more aggressive today, but just never really felt comfortable taking the ball on. Started with the return, started with the first shot after the serve. There was never like this simple one-two punch: return, first strike. I never got 100 per cent comfortable with it throughout the entire tournament.”

Goffin, by contrast, has such a quick eye on the return that any slightly vulnerable serves end up being driven back for a clean winner. In this, he resembles Andy Murray, although his delicate build and light-footed movement give a very different impression on the court. He also takes the ball extremely early, using his perfect technique and timing to redirect it up the line at will.
Well this was a disappointing end to an outstanding season.  I would have loved for him to win and go out on a high, but I guess this was not his day.  I'm not too sad however because of the aforementioned reason.  
If it means he gets a few days extra vacation where he allows his body to rest more and is good and ready to take on 2018, I'm totally fine with that. Rest up Roger, see you at the end of December.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Roger Federer Says No. 1 is ‘Ultimate Achievement, But Not Realistic’

It's no secret that the resurgence of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer has stolen the headlines on the ATP World Tour this year. Big title after big title was theirs to seize and the duo would be rewarded with the top two spots in the year-end Emirates ATP Rankings.

While Nadal will finish the season ahead of Federer at No. 1, the battle for the top position is far from finished. Should the Swiss lift the trophy at this week's Nitto ATP Finals, the gap between the two legends would be a mere 140 points in the Emirates ATP Rankings, as the calendar flips to 2018. That is, just 140 points that separate Federer from adding to his record 302 weeks at World No. 1.

The top spot is within reach, but while the Swiss admits it would be an incredible achievement, he is staying realistic.

"It is interesting," Federer said following a three-set win over Marin Cilic to close out a perfect run through Group Boris Becker. "It's the ultimate achievement in tennis. It always has been for me. But at this age, it just can't be because I think I'll make mistakes if I start chasing it.

"I'm not sure how much the body allows me to chase goals like this. Maybe if I start thinking about it too often and too much, I think I'm maybe also not playing the way I'm supposed to be playing, maybe I tense up, maybe I'm nervous, maybe that's not good for my back. Who knows what it is.

"I have 2,000 points to defend in Australia, [Nadal] doesn't. So there's the problem already. I know he has a lot of points to defend, too, in Australia, but not as many as me. That's why I always said, look, it's not a realistic goal in some ways. I still need to win this tournament before it's actually really close. The year played out the way it did and Rafa was better. He deserves to be there. I'm really happy for him because he had a rough season as well in '16. It's great for him."

Nadal might have had a better season, as Federer admits, but at age 36, the Swiss has enjoyed a renaissance of his own. The Comeback Player of the Year in the 2017 ATP World Tour Awards Presented By Mo√ęt & Chandon, he rebounded brilliantly after concluding his 2016 campaign at No. 16 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, due to injury.

In an effort to minimize fatigue and strain on his body, Federer managed his schedule to perfection. He has suffered just four defeats from 56 matches, two of which came after holding match points. While the Basel native laments those losses to Evgeny Donskoy in Dubai and Tommy Haas in Stuttgart, he says there are no regrets following such a successful campaign.

"Regrets, I don't have any," Federer added. "But maybe losing to Haas and Donskoy ended up haunting me. I had match points in both matches. It's not like I didn't try. If I miss out because of that for World No. 1, then maybe I was unlucky. But I also did win matches in Miami, saving match points against Berdych, other matches throughout the season that could have been gone either way as well. In Australia, it was Nishikori. You name it. Things could have turned very quickly much earlier.

"So I'm just happy I'm playing a great season. I'm so happy that I was able to reach this level of play and still being able to play also at the end of the year. It wasn't just one tournament at the beginning, then nothing after that. So it was throughout that I've had a great year."

Federer reached the 95-title milestone in a season that saw him lift seven trophies, including a pair of Grand Slam victories at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, as well as ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crowns in Indian Wells, Miami and Shanghai. With an unprecedented seventh title at the Nitto ATP Finals just two wins away, Federer believes there is plenty to be grateful for.

"I totally over-exceeded my expectations. I'm just happy I'm injury-free and healthy right now and still enjoying myself. In Australia, I hope to be fit again, to walk out on Rod Laver Arena and hopefully defend my title. But we're still very far away at this point."

But before Federer turns his attention to 2018, he has one last matter of business to attend to in London. The Swiss will next face the winner of Friday's round-robin clash between Dominic Thiem and David Goffin, with a spot in the final at stake.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Roger Federer undefeated at ATP World Tour Finals

Roger Federer Tumblr

Roger Federer won't finish 2017 as the year-end No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. But the second seed has put himself in great position to still finish his fairytale comeback season with a perfect ending.

The 36-year-old Swiss won his third consecutive match at the Nitto ATP Finals on Thursday, dismissing fifth seed Marin Cilic 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-1 to finish Group Boris Becker play 3-0. It's the 10th time Federer has ended group play unbeaten, and he'll head to Saturday's semi-final full of belief, not that he has been lacking.

The six-time Nitto ATP Finals champion has reeled off 13 consecutive wins, including eight indoors, dating back to his Swiss Indoors Basel title run. This weekend, he'll be the favourite to win his seventh Nitto ATP Finals title and his eighth crown of the season.

Alexander Zverev and Jack Sock will play for second place in Group Boris Becker on Thursday night. In Group Pete Sampras, first-time semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov has won the group, and David Goffin and Dominic Thiem will play for second place on Friday afternoon.

Federer leads his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against Goffin 6-0, but the Swiss trails Thiem in their rivalry 1-2, although all three matches took place last year.

“I played very well so really happy to be playing at this level right now,” Federer said on court after his 55th Nitto ATP Finals win.

CIlic had lost his first two matches and had no chance of making the semi-finals. But with the pressure off, the Croatian played his best tennis of the week to start the match.

He saved all four break points and didn't wait for Federer to misstep in the first set tie-break. Cilic smashed a forehand winner crosscourt, his 20th winner of the set, to take the opener and snap a six-set losing streak against the Swiss.

The second set had been more of the same as Cilic stepped up to serve at 4-5. But at 15/40, he lobbed an 84 mph second serve to Federer, who ran around it and crushed a 100 mph forehand winner to even the match. Federer rolled from there, breaking Cilic in the second and sixth games to advance.

“It wasn't easy. I mean, look, it's a fast court. It's indoors. We've seen it now: when you miss a few too many opportunities, you can really pay the price at this tournament. So we've seen some swings of momentum in a lot of the matches this week,” Federer said.

“I think in the beginning I was slightly overaggressive in the first set on some crucial points rather than maybe being patient. I was able to turn that around late in the second set. Then just had a much better feeling in the third set.

“Maybe also Marin's level dropped, I'm not sure. But definitely was dangerous there for a while.”

Cilic fell to 1-8 during his three appearances at the Nitto ATP Finals. All three of his matches this week lasted three sets.

“Even though it's three losses, I felt that my tennis wasn't too far off of playing really, really well. Good positives at least in that. Hopefully I'm going to recover good and start a new season on a good level,” he said.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Is Roger Federer really the GOAT? Martina Hingis proves the latest greatness isn't always the best

Tennis obsessives love to debate who the sport's "greatest of all time" is. Rod Laver still has his partisans, but at this point such fans are widely considered sentimentalists. Conventional wisdom now has it that whoever is the dominant player of the moment is the "GOAT." Players from each new generation, goes the thinking, are always bigger, faster and ever-more dedicated to excellence than the last. Tennis aficionado RICHARD WIENER, however, argues that such thinking is all wrong. The greats, he says, would be great in any generation. His example in a guest column here: Martina Hingis. Back at the turn of the century, the injury-prone "Swiss Miss" was believed to be too small to continue in the upper echelons of the game. Hingis ultimately proved such thinking wrong, with successful comebacks in both singles and doubles. Read Wiener's column below. - Douglas Perry

One of the most enduring articles of faith among sports fans is that pro athletes just keep getting better and better. Pete Sampras, the great tennis champion of the 1990s, recently articulated this view for his sport, saying: "Each generation of athletes gets stronger and faster, and the players are adding to their knowledge of the game, and as a result you see the level of tennis going up and up. Everyone keeps on improving - today's players are tremendous athletes and hit the ball incredibly hard." This is a belief that's only reinforced by YouTube videos of tennis matches over the past 50 years - the speed of today's game looks faster than ever, because ... it is!

But despite the ever increasing pace of play, the curious case of Martina Hingis demonstrates it's just a myth that each generation is better than the previous.

Hingis, the current number one ranked women's doubles player, announced her retirement a few weeks ago, saying, "You want to stop on top and not when you're already going backward."

At age 15 Hingis became the youngest woman to win a doubles title at Wimbledon, and at age 37 one of the oldest to win doubles at the U.S. Open. In between these remarkable bookends, she won more than 100 titles in singles and doubles. In the course of a spectacular career, Hingis managed five major singles titles, 13 major doubles titles, and seven Grand Slam mixed doubles titles. She won a calendar year Grand Slam in doubles, and in 1998 simultaneously held the number one ranking in both singles and doubles. Hingis even matched up well against the mighty Serena Williams, with a head-to-head singles record of six wins and seven losses.

Even though Hingis turned pro 23 years ago, she only played on tour for 14 years, making the number of titles she won all the more impressive. As a teenager she rose to the top of women's tennis, and then retired at the age of 22 due to injuries. Four years later Hingis briefly came out of retirement, climbed back to number six in singles, and then retired abruptly a second time after testing positive for cocaine. 

After five additional years off tour, long enough to be elected to the Hall of Fame, Hingis unretired again, but this time as a doubles-only player. Remarkably, in her mid-thirties and after an extended leave from pro tennis, she nonetheless quickly rose to number one and dominated women's doubles. Hingis and her partner Sania Mirza went on a 41-match winning streak, which included titles at Wimbledon and the U.S. and Australian Opens. After splitting with Mirza, Hingis dropped from number one but remained in the top 10. Then she teamed with Latisha Chan and went on another tear, winning nine tournaments in 2017, including the U.S. Open, once again regaining the number-one ranking in doubles, only to retire for a third time.

If athletes are stronger and faster and just keep improving, as Sampras says, how did Hingis manage to "time travel" from the 1990s into the present decade and still remain well above a whole new crop of younger, more powerful, and supposedly better players than the ones she faced two decades ago?

Martina's latest accomplishments are even more striking considering that, unlike on the men's side of the game, the top women's singles players routinely play doubles too. Hingis and Mirza defeated Garbine Muguruza (a two-time singles champion at Grand Slam events) and Carla Suarez Navarro (ranked in the top 10 in singles at her highest) to win the title at the 2015 year-end WTA Finals. Plus, tactics in women's doubles have changed since the 1990s. 

Back then, doubles players served and volleyed. In the current era of power tennis, the return of serve is too strong to follow serve to net. So the one-up, one-back formation, common in recreational tennis, is now the primary formation in the women's pro game. But regardless of style of play, Hingis has proven herself the best doubles player in the world. She can more than hold her own from the baseline against huge hitters like Muguruza and still play a magical finesse game at the net with superb use of angle, spin and placement.

Here's an alternative hypothesis. The game isn't faster because players are better. It's faster because equipment is improving, which allows players to hit harder and look like they've taken the game to a whole new level. Put the latest in racquet and string technology in the hands of a great player from the past, something that usually can't happen, and he or she is still a great player. Hingis is that rare case of a champion from 20 years ago coming out of extended retirement to show what she can still do. 

Lo and behold the radar gun now clocks some of Martina's serves over 100 mph, a speed she almost never attained in the 1990s. Her service motion is unchanged, which suggests it's the racquet not the player responsible for extra pop on the ball. And how does Hingis deal with rockets off the racquets of big hitters? Back at them, no problem. A few dozen more trophies on the shelf and it's time to end the experiment on intergenerational play with Martina still on top!