Shanghai – final

(2)Novak Djokovic d. (3)Andy Murray      5-7, 7-6(11), 6-3          [3:20 h]

The sixth encounter of the season between two 25-year-olds (also Roger Federer has played so many matches with Juan Martin del Potro in 2012); I think they have a good chance to meet at least once again this year, in Paris or London, which is a very good prospect considering how interesting their rivalry has been this year… It was one of the most dramatic finals of the 22-year-old ‘Masters 1000’ history. Early on, Murray displayed his exceptional return skills – Djokovic had lost his serve three times throughout the week, against Murray he was broken four times already in the 1st set! That set was a total roller-coaster, from the very first point the pace was intense, Djokovic took first two games after a couple of ‘deuces’. Afterwards he came back from a break down twice, and leading 5:4* (30/0) was two points away, having Murray’s second serve, but played very bad four points. In the following game, quickly he got 40/0, and repeated the style of the previous game – playing point after point poorly, and losing five of them in succession. It’s not surprising that those two games must have been extremely frustrating, especially that he lost to Murray all tight four sets they’d played recently (5-7 5-7 in London, 6-7 5-7 in New York). Djokovic furiously devastated his racquet striking it four times on the ground. Murray finally held his serve easily, and took the opener after 72 minutes. In the 2nd set they found a way to hold service games, but at 3-all Murray broke, which seemed to be decisive. He led 5:3*, in the 10th game he was serving to win second straight Shanghai final with the same scoreline. At 30/0 for him, Djokovic won a 16-stroke rally with a help of a tweener, finishing the rally with a backhand dropshot. He pumped his fist with a broad smile despite potential triumph was far away at the time, that spontaneous reaction excited the Chinese spectators; up to that point the objective crowd, since then changed its mood cheering loudly for Djokovic. Murray had a match point on serve, but the Serb fought it off with a forehand winner. The Scot lost the game, another one, but kept his composure, feeling own firmly established tradition of winning “match-sets” even when an advantage slips away. He held his serve to ’15’ opening a sensational 22-minute tie-break. Djokovic served a double fault being 3:1 ahead, 6:4 for Murray and a double match point. Djokovic erases it with a forehand and service winners. Already three match points saved, but odds are still against him, historically Murray is much more better in long tie-breaks, which he confirmed also during their US Open final, moreover he is unbeaten at the Shanghai Masters in three appearances there. Now he proves again his capability of dealing very well with two-point advantage breakers as he quickly gets two points from *6:7 after two forehand attacks on Djokovic’s backhand. 8:7 and the fourth match point – Djokovic hits another forehand winner. 9:8 for him, Murray saves second set point with exactly the same manner as the first one – strong forehand shot on Djokovic’s backhand, causing an error. 10:9 Murray, fifth championship point, and the closest one to the title – it’s a rally, Murray attacks Djokovic’s backhand, but the Serb from a difficult position, responds with a flat shot down the line, and Murray netts a forehand. 11:10 Djokovic, his third set point disappears due to conservative ground-strokes. 11-all, very good out-wide serve, Djokovic only tries to keep the ball in play, and Murray standing in the area from which he wins 9 out of 10 similar points, this time sends the ball long! It’s a great gift, Djokovic accepts it and a combination of hard 1st serve and a drive-forehand volley gives him the set, and breaks the pattern of Murray’s winning tight sets in their newest confrontations. The Scot breaks his racquet, however, in less expressive way than Djokovic did it 90 minutes before. At the beginning of the 3rd set the atmosphere calmed down. Both finalists were stretching muscles, exhausting 2nd set took its toll… Another tie-break was probable after six games as they held service games quite comfortably. Murray didn’t survive physically though, in the consequence Djokovic won the last four games of the final, converting his third match point when Murray’s aggressive backhand landed outside the baseline. Djokovic celebrated his 33rd title more gently that winning the 13/11 tie-break. His ability to turn the things around is remarkable, who knows what the future brings, at the moment I’d say he looks like the toughest mental-player of the Open era, only Bjorn Borg is comparable to him in this department. Murray is mentally tough too, but the last two weeks were ironic from his perspective. More than two years he hadn’t lost a set reaching a set point which is very long time given the number of sets he played in the meantime, and suddenly within eight days he loses twice blowing match points (last week to Milos Raonic) “It was a disappointing one to lose,” said Murray. “I’ve lost tougher matches than that before in the biggest events. So I’m sure I’ll recover from it pretty well. The second set, I probably played a little bit better. But he came up, served very well on the match points. The one match point I had on my serve, he hit the forehand onto the edge of the line.” – reference to the point at *6:4 in the tie-break. Stats of the final

Doubles final:
(4)L.Paes/R.Stepanek d. (7)M.Bhupathi/R.Bopanna 6-7(7), 6-3, [10-5]

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Shanghai – semifinals

2nd semifinal:

(3)Andy Murray d. (1)Roger Federer            6-4, 6-4                            [1:38 h]

The second semifinal (played in night session) delivered much more suspense than the first one despite the scoreline was almost identical. Just like during their Olympic final a few months ago, Murray was hitting amazing returns, especially after Federer’s 2nd serve. The Scot has changed his tactics this year as a retriever (presumably in regard of Ivan Lendl‘s suggestions), he steps onto the court before 2nd serves and takes the ball as early as possible. This constant pressure caused Federer’s three consecutive double faults at 2-all (0/15) in the 1st set! The 2nd set began with a bizarre 18-minute (8 deuces) game, in which Federer initially led 40/0. Murray started to hit extraordinary returns that gave him break points, six overall, before Federer’s complaining on slippery court (in the meantime a few raindrops fell). Nine minutes of play in the opening game preceded a 7-minute break when the roof was activated, but stopped because additional raindrops didn’t fall during the process. After the resumption Murray got his 7th break point, and one of the best rallies of the season occurred then – both players moved from a deep defense to offense, and Federer won it with a backhand dropshot landing on the line. Murray wasn’t concerned at all, what didn’t work for him in that game, kicked on at 2-all; Federer led 40/0 on serve again, but Murray managed to win five points in succession. As players entered the court after nine games of the set (Murray had to serve for the match), the rain came again, this time heavier, and the roof must have been activated for good – it prevented continuing of the semifinal about half an hour. Murray served out the last game to ’15’ without any troubles. He extends his perfect record in Shanghai to 12-0 joining Nadal and Djokovic as the third player to have beaten Federer ten times or more #

# Federer’s H2H records with at least 10 defeats: Nadal 10-18; Djokovic 16-12; Murray 8-10

1st semifinal:

(2)Novak Djokovic d. (4)Thomas Berdych       6-3, 6-4                                [1:25 h]

The Czech player now has opened a double-digit of defeats to the best three players in the world # The first blood came as early as in the 2nd game of the match. At 30-all on Berdych’s serve, Djokovic decided to rush the net, played very good approaching backhand volley to put away with another one from the forehand side. Thanks to that entertaining rally the Serb got the right mood and soon established a 5:1 lead breaking Berdych for the second time with two outstanding forehands. A momentary lapse of concentration, double fault on set point, and Berdych surprisingly had a break point to erase a double break disadvantage – Djokovic won strongly three points in a row. At 1:1 (30-all) in the 2nd set, Berdych thought he served an ace but Djokovic challenged and the ball was out. A moment later he got a break point with a lucky backhand slice which passed the Czech and clipped the line. The break point was quickly converted and Djokovic never looked back – in the 2nd set he lost just one point in five service games! His form this week has been excellent, especially regarding the serve (wasn’t forced to save any break point in the first five sets he played) – Berdych is the only man to win four games in a set against him. A funny thing, last week in Beijing Djokovic opened first four matches with a ‘6-1’ set, this week he repeated the pattern of repeatability capturing four straight openers ‘6-3’.

# Berdych’s H2H records against the best 3 players: Nadal 3-12; Federer 5-11; Djokovic 1-10
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Shanghai – three rounds + QF’s

Quarterfinals

The first quarterfinal between Thomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was in some sense an attempt to reply on a question “Who is the real No. 5”. The simplistic answer is: Berdych, because he won 6-3 7-6. Both players were highly motivated and created very good match, separated them just Tsonga’s fluctuating concentration. He suffered decrease of it in the 1st set at 3:4 when he played an awful game on serve losing quickly four straight points; the situation repeated itself in a different dimension when he committed a double fault at 4-all in the 2nd set tie-break. “I think it was really solid game and solid performance from beginning until the end,” said Berdych. “I think the biggest difference between me and Jo was I was able to take the small chances during the first and especially the second set.” The semifinal line-up is overcrowded by top four seeds: Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic joined Berdych, everyone got two required sets on Friday with a relative ease. A bit more complicated match experienced Murray. At the beginning of the 3rd set against Radek Stepanek he said to himself/his box: “Every shot is shanking. I’m tired, sick, and playing very bad”. Despite complaining he managed to rebuff the Czech player by a 4-6 6-2 6-3 margin.

Three rounds

The fourth edition of the Shanghai Rolex Masters was deprived of three Top 10 players (Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, Juan Martin del Potro). The last four weeks of the regular season, it’s a period of the year when there’s a lot of talk about the ranking: who will finish the season as No. 1?, who will play in the Season Ending-Championships in London? These are the basic questions at the beginning of October. On the assumption Nadal won’t play this season anymore, three players are certain, four others (more than 3,000 points) have almost guaranteed their appearance in London, those players  (between 2,720 & 2,115 points) who have reasonable chances to get the eighth spot, disappointed this week – neither of them won at least two matches (Janko Tipsarevic, Nicolas Almagro, Juan Monaco, Richard Gasquet, Milos Raonic & John Isner). Raonic was close to get a third match point-down victory within a week, despite saving a match point in the 2nd set against Marcos Baghdatis, he lost an all-tie-break match anyway. Thanks to the setback of the above mentioned guys, Marin Cilic (currently 15th in the Race) is mixed up with them as a London contender after reaching quarterfinals. He now meets Roger Federer, who secured himself maintaining No. 1 next Monday after battling past his compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka 4-6 7-6 6-0 under two hours. As I wrote two months ago when they met in Cincinnati, Wawrinka even playing very well, loses to the best guys because of details. Today decided a point at 3-all in the tie-break. Wawrinka after a good serve was in a position to deliver a highly percentage shot in empty court towards Federer’s backhand side, he chose other solution though, contre pie, but Federer waited for that, and passed beautifully his four years younger friend. In the deciding set Wawrinka didn’t give a hoot and lost it in less than 20 minutes winning just 5 points (Federer 24). In the 2nd set Wawrinka squandered a mini-match point at 4-all. Two-time defending champion Andy Murray, just like a year before, received a walkover in the second round (last year from Tursunov, this year from F.Mayer). European veterans seem to be in very good physical shape, 34-year-olds Tommy Haas [21] and Radek Stepanek [41] moved through three rounds, each of them defeating two London aspirants. Federer reflecting on being number one 300th week: “Sometimes you’re just happy playing. Some people, some media unfortunately don’t understand that it’s okay just to play tennis and enjoy it. They always think you have to win everything, it always needs to be a success story, and if it’s not obviously what is the point. Maybe you have to go back and think, ‘Why have I started playing tennis?’ Because I just like it. It’s actually sort of a dream hobby that became somewhat of a job. Some people just don’t get that ever.” Isner played four tie-breaks in two matches, winning three of them, which makes him # the first man in the Open era to win at least 40 tie-breaks within a season (after Shanghai his record is 41/15, thus 73% – second best this year). It’s interesting that he beat Kevin Anderson for the second time in career wasting a match point in the 2nd set, previously it happened in Atlanta two years ago. For Anderson it’s first main-level defeat after squandering a match point (to be precise he had three in the deciding tie-break).

# The most tie-break wins within a season:
41/15 John Isner (2012)continues
38/21 Michael Stich (1993)
37/14 Andy Roddick (2004) & Roger Federer (2006)
37/30 Ivo Karlovic (2007) *
36/21 Andy Roddick (2003)
35/19 Pete Sampras (1992)
* Karlovic that season was 45/37 adding Challengers and qualifying rounds
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US Open 1981

Arguably it’s the most important tennis event in the first half of the 80s. 25-year-old Bjorn Borg, the best player of the last two seasons, notched a third straight defeat in major finals to his biggest rival – John McEnroe, which cost the Swede losing the No. 1 in the world. It was Borg’s ninth failed attempt to win in New York – the only big title he missed in his stellar career (Australian Open wasn’t considered as a huge title at the time; Borg never played there since 1974). These factors, entwined with personal issues, caused his retirement in the following season, he did not play another major afterwards. The new king, McEnroe became the first US Open champion in three consecutive editions since 1925! Read more… 
This week I’ve added a new page Ranking-Top 20
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40th Week

This gallery contains 2 photos.

Second leg of the Asian swing supposed to be a comfortable warm-up for Andy Murray [4] and Novak Djokovic [2] before Shanghai. Murray was unexpectedly beaten in Tokyo though, by a player he had demolished last month in New York – … Continue reading

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Roland Garros 1995

Unprecedented time in the Open era, never before (afterwards too) a player without a Grand Slam title was such a huge favorite to get the first one as 27-year-old Thomas Muster in Paris ’95. The Austrian had won 23 consecutive matches on clay in 1995 (four titles) prior to the Roland Garros leaving an impression of invincibility, thrice during that streak he won from a match point down. In Paris, unexpectedly, he was also close to defeat in quarterfinals as he faced 19-year-old unheralded Albert Costa. The Spaniard was two games away from a sensational 4-set victory, despite the loss his near-future triumph in Paris seemed very plausible, however, he had to wait another seven years to lift the trophy. Read more…
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39th Week

This gallery contains 1 photo.

It happens rarely that a player wins a tournament being twice on verge of being eliminated. Richard Gasquet made two stunning comebacks in Bangkok en route to his seventh title: on both, second round and semifinal, he was two points … Continue reading

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Gallery + font change

I was reviewing my old papers today, and I found pictures I had drawn around 1997. Actually it is barely connected to the content of my website, but I’ve decided to scan those pictures and put them here. So if you get to know artistic skill of my past you can check it out in the gallery :) 
Moreover it’s a time to renovate my website graphically – from now on it will look almost exactly as my e-book, so “headlines” written in Agency FB whilst “text boxes” in Isocpeur. Apologizes for those of you who haven’t read my e-book yet, and aren’t familiar with those fonts. It’s a matter of time to adjust to them as to everything else I guess.
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Australian Open 1994

I see resemblance in tennis elite at the beginning of 1994 to that what happened ten years later. When the Australian Open ’94 started, there were three guys seemingly playing at very similar level (Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and Michael Stich). Ten years later we can assign it towards a trio: Federer, Roddick, Ferrero. Both in 1994 and 2004, the Australian Open champions – Sampras and Federer respectively, established their supremacy for many years to come over the toughest challengers… Relatively speaking it was the last good big event of the most successful players at majors of the previous decade – 30-year-old Mats Wilander, and four years older Ivan Lendl; the former Aussie Open champions reached the Grand Slam fourth round for the last time in career. Read more…
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38th Week

This gallery contains 1 photo.

The indoor season kicked off without notable names. The highest ranked player to participate in the Saint Petersburg tournament, Mikhail Youzhny is currently No. 29. There was a possibility for the first time in the Open era that none player … Continue reading

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