The most titles

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Because Novak Djokovic won his 30th singles title last Sunday, Leander Paes his 50th doubles title last Saturday, I guess it is a good time to make an entry considering the most titles won by particular players in the Open … Continue reading

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Australian Open 1992

Since today I will be posting old majors every Tuesday or Wednesday, usually in order adequate to the four Grand Slam tournaments, next week Roland Garros ’89. I have recently installed “drop-down menu” to my blog, so you can go with a cursor of your mouse to the “major” pages to select a specific Grand Slam tournament. Starting this week, I won’t be adding the whole text to my homepage because it covers too much space.
The tournament was deprived of two young American stars: Pete Sampras [6] and Andre Agassi [10] who withdrew due to injuries. Sampras pulled out after the draw had been made (sore shoulder), at the beginning of the year Agassi was supposed to play his first Australian Open ever. The tournament was won by their compatriot and peer, Jim Courier, and this triumph secured him No. 1 spot in the world ranking. It was a breakthrough tournament for two 20-year-old players, Wayne Ferreira and Richard Krajicek, who reached semi-finals and thanks to that achievement they advanced to the Top 20 a few months later to stay there the next couple of years. Both young guys impressed in Melbourne with their trademark shots: Ferreira’s wide-swing forehand, Krajicek’s first booming serve…
Read more about Australian Open 1992                   Read about Australian Open finals in years 1980-1987
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Miami – final

(1)Novak Djokovic d. (4)Andy Murray    
-1, 7-6(4)                             [2:17 h
Miami is the only ‘1000’ tournament which separates semifinals from the final by one day off. This year’s withdrawal of Nadal caused a unique situation that one of the finalists (Murray) has not played a match in three days! The Brit won his quarterfinal match on Wednesday, on Thursday there were quarterfinals in the top half of the draw, on Friday he received walkover, Saturday was free for both final participants. As usual it was a very hot Miami day, both players appeared in white outfits and caps. Djokovic experienced almost a copy of his two previous matches against Ferrer and Monaco when he was forced to work hard in the 2nd set after taking the opener easily… The first critical moment of the final came after the second change of ends. The serving Murray led 40/0 as Djokovic played two fast backhands to hang in that game. Murray squandered six game points in total, a break point in the following game, and Djokovic established a 4:1 lead, then managed to get another break in the 6th game against a slightly discouraged opponent. In the 2nd set Murray accelerated his ground-strokes, Djokovic responded with stronger serves, and they held twelve service games. Both had their chances for a break though, for example Murray led 4:3 (30/0) – great serve display of Djokovic then, later on Murray was three times two points away from winning the set at 6:5 – Djokovic avoided facing a set point with two solid baseline rallies and a service winner. In the tie-break Murray was 2:0 down, but leveled up after a fantastic rally (finished the point with a stretch drop-shot from the tram-lines), it cost him a lot of energy and committed a double fault afterwards. Djokovic got the next two points with a forehand winner (99 mph) and an ace. At 2:5, Murray held both serves quickly, and the Serb responded with another serve-forehand combination. On the first match point the Brit sent a forehand long and Djokovic quite calmly celebrated his 30th title. It’s been their fourth ‘1000’ final, Murray won all previous ones, also in Miami as he beat Djokovic 6-2 7-5 three years ago. Their rivalry develops, last year they played three matches, as many as already this year (2-1 for Djokovic in both seasons).
I had a great tournament,” Djokovic amitted. “I managed to play my best tennis when I needed to.” Last year after clinching the title at Sony Ericsson Open, he had a sensational 24-0 record of the season, now it’s just a bit worse (20-2), so it’s a solid base to suspect he’s going to finish second straight year as the best player in the world. Murray has his big ambitions, has the legendary Ivan Lendl in his box, but with his last defeats to Federer and Djokovic in ATP finals, and upcoming season on his least favorite surface (clay) it’s really tough to expect he may finally break through to the hermetically closed configuration of the Top 3. Stats of the final.

 Doubles final:
(7)L.Paes/R.Stepanek d. (2)M.Mirnyi/D.Nestor 3-6, 6-1, [10-8]

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Miami – semifinals

 2nd semifinal:

(1)Novak Djokovic d. (21)Juan Monaco             6-0, 7-6(5)                         [2:03 h]

Monaco notched impressive wins over American boys in the last two rounds, but to beat Djokovic he needs to adopt a different mind-set and game-style from start to finish. The Argentine had neutralized the biggest weapon of both Yanks, Roddick and Fish – their 1st serve, and felt comfortably on the back of the court because they aren’t able to dictate the pace with ground-strokes, something what Djokovic does really well, perhaps the best in the world. Monaco’s 1st serve percentage dropped from 83% against Fish, to 67% against Djokovic, which is understandable because Monaco serving on Fish’s forehand in particular, couldn’t expect anything but soft returns whereas Djokovic’s retrieving skills are enormous which makes a constant pressure on serving opponents. In the 1st set “Pico” managed to get only eight points (two of them thanks to D’Joke’s double faults…) In the 2nd set he changed his T-shirt (from white to orange one) and reinforced his shots to make the semifinal much more competitive, but turning the tables was impossible, however, second night in a row Djokovic found himself in the same position – failed trying to serve for the match and two games later was two points away from the decider at *5:6 (30 all). The 1st set lasted 27 minutes, the 2nd one… 1 hour 36 minutes!

1st semifinal:

(4)Andy Murray d. (2)Rafael Nadal                     w/o

Unfortunately Nadal withdrew due to a left knee injury. “I waited until today in the morning. I did a lot of treatment yesterday,” said Nadal. “But I am not ready to compete today. I am very sorry for the fans. I’m very sorry for the tournament. I’m very sorry for everybody who was ready to watch the match on television… I cannot go on court and lie to everybody.” It’s the second walkover Murray received this week, the previous one from Milos Raonic. It’s a totally unique situation to go through two rounds with walkovers withing one tournament! Something like this never happened before in the history of “Sony Ericsson Open“. Last year Murray won two tournaments getting walkovers (Queens Club & Shanghai). The funny thing is, before the previous season he had not received a walkover even once. Nadal, who gave second walkover in career (previously to Irakli Labadze in Estoril ’04) has now a couple weeks off ahead to regroup himself and he will be again an overwhelming favorite to get back-to-back titles in his beloved Monte Carlo and Barcelona to snap a 10-month title drought.

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Miami – quarterfinals

Thursday. All four previous matches between Mardy Fish and Juan Monaco  had a dramatic conclusion. Monaco – celebrating his 28th birthday – has broken this pattern. He was playing a perfect match supported by loud Argentinian colony chanting “Ole, ole-ole-ole, Pico, Pico!“, didn’t miss anything from the baseline, dealt without problems with Fish’s serves, kept extremely high percentage of 1st serves in (96 % in the 1st set!). Fish was on a verge of disastrous outcome, but saved a break point trailing 0:2 in the 2nd set, and broke back, but Monaco got two more breaks finishing the contest in 1 hour 22 minutes (6-1, 6-3) with a stretch backhand drop-volley. “It was unbelievable,” said Monaco. “I think the way to celebrate my birthday, playing like this like I did today, [I] feel proud and very happy [to] be here on my birthday.” It’s the biggest success in his career, admittedly he was in a ‘1000’ semi-final once, in Shanghai 2010, but I’d consider it as a second league of ‘1000’ tournaments along with Monte Carlo. ‘Pico” has been in very good form since Valencia ’11, and I expect it’s going to be the best season in his career.
In the last match of the fourth round, David Ferrer overcame Juan Martin del Potro after bilaterally good performance despite losing just six games. The Spaniard two days later experienced similar match, but with a reverse outcome. He was playing his best tennis, but it wasn’t enough that day to beat Novak Djokovic. There were plenty of punishing rallies, one of them consisted of 41 strokes (each player run around 100 meters during it). Ferrer came back twice from a break down in the 2nd set, and was two points away from the decider at 6:5* (30 all), Djokovic saved more energy for the crucial stage though, winning 9 out of the next 10 points, securing himself another semifinal berth with a 6-2, 7-6(1) victory. This match showed what separates Djokovic and Del Potro – the net game. The Argentine goes forward too rarely, and makes too many easy errors at the net – it is something Djokovic does not.

Wednesday. Ivan Lendl appeared in Andy Murray‘s box for the first time since the epic Australian Open semifinal. “Ivan the Terrible” was unimpressed throughout the match in contrary to his pupil, who had a tough time during 15-20 minutes. The Scot had a game point leading 4:2 in the 1st set but started to moan in characteristic manner for himself, and lost six straight games (Janko Tipsarevic finished the set with two aces in a row). After the 1st game of the 2nd set he declared to a trainer struggling with stomach problems, allegedly he was afraid of vomiting every time he took a sip of water. He received a pill and the picture of the match changed drastically. Murray is an on-court thinker, he slowed down the pace allowing the opponent to make silly errors. Since 2:3* in the 2nd set, Murray won 7 out of the next 8 games, and focused on holding his serve to the end. After 2 hours 38 minutes he clinched a  4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory on his first match point. I thought today that Tipsarevic in terms of tennis skills is very similar type of player to a former Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson, but I don’t expect the Serb might win a ‘1000’ tournament at least as Johansson had done before he became one of the most unexpected major champions in the Open era.
The night session quarterfinal between Rafael Nadal and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was highly entertaining, however, through long part of the match it seemed that Nadal would be a straight set winner. Tsonga began the encounter awfully – lost his opening service game despite a 40-0 lead. He was spreading backhand errors, couldn’t find his rhythm at the net and Nadal broke him two more times soon. Tsonga had nothing to lose and feeling the energy of the crowd managed to win five straight games from 3:5 in the 2nd set (!), he even had a break point in the early stage of the decider, Nadal didn’t surrender though, and got the final three games to win 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 just under 3 hours before the midnight. In the last game Tsonga had a break point twice, on the second occasion broke the string in his racquet trying to play an offensive forehand return…

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Miami – Round 3rd + 4th

Fourth round

Mardy Fish [8] had to work very hard in his fourth round match to achieve the best result of the season. The American squandered a 4:2 lead in the 2nd set, and was forced to save break points in three consecutive games of the decider (on the last break point in the 5th game he won a 31-stroke rally finished with a gentle drop-volley) before prevailed against Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-3 in 2 hours 35 minutes. Last year’s semifinalist Fish, who is playing tournament No. 200 in his career, complains that officials don’t designate his matches on Stadium court (all three matches this week played on Grandstand).
Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray are on a collision course in semi-finals. On Tuesday they won demanding two setters, Nadal outlasted Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-4 in two hours 10 minutes, Murray overcame Gilles Simon 6-3, 6-4 in one hour 46 minutes. Both favorites won very long opening games of their matches; Nadal needed 12 minutes (five deuces), Murray 17 minutes (seven deuces). The latter improves his H2H against Simon to 9-1, winning the last nine meetings pretty easily. In my opinion they belong to a group of players of the same type, but the Scot just executes better everything. “The beginning was a very tough match for me,” said Nadal about his fourth win over the Japanese, “I think I start playing more aggressively. At the end of the first set, I felt that I started to win my serves easier than him.” Last year they met in Miami as well (second round), and Nadal went through after identical scoreline.
Andy Roddick didn’t consolidate his sensational victory over Federer. He led 4:2* in the 1st set against Juan Monaco, but lost his serve, later on had a game point to enter a tie-break – the Argentine played three tremendous points then (forehand passing-shot, backhand down the line after a long rally, backhand passing-shot) and took the set in 70 minutes. Roddick ran out of gas in the 2nd set, Monaco only needed to keep the ball in play, looking at unforced errors of the heavily sweating Roddick… 7-5, 6-0 before sunset, and Monaco secures his spot in unexpected quarterfinal against Fish, whom had beaten on the last occasion (Paris  ’11). “I just didn’t have it physically,” Roddick admitted. “I got to about 4-all, and I was – you know, I’m out of shape. That’s it.”

Third round

After several disappointing months, a gifted 20-year-old Grigor Dimitrov [101] perhaps is finally playing a breakthrough tournament. He advanced to the last 16 as the only unseeded player, notching his first win over a Top 10 player. In the third round, Dimitrov ousted Tomas Berdych 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 on Stadium court. In the 3rd set at 3:4 Dimitrov staved off two mini-match points, the first one with a service winner, the second with a 2nd serve ace, he looked tired but after holding the serve the momentum swung and the young Bulgarian took the next two games pretty convincingly. “Today was a great match, a great day for me,” said Dimitrov. “I didn’t expect to play that well. I didn’t make enough first serves, though. [I] got a bit lucky at 4:4 in the third [set], and I was happy to close the match.”
Milos Raonic unfortunately withdrew from his highly anticipated match against Andy Murray due to ankle injury. “Yesterday, at the end of practice, we finished doing an hour long practice, and I was just moving back and I rolled over my ankle and ended up spraining it,” explained Raonic, who after that practice session played a doubles match retiring at 1:2 in the 1st set.
Richard Gasquet was ousted by Albert Ramos at Indian Wells 6-3, 5-7, 1-6. He made a quick revenge, but after first two sets he could afraid of repeating the scenario. The Frenchman won 6-2, 5-7, 6-3, in his previous match against Stebe (6-3, 6-7, 6-2) got the final three games of the match playing with cramps. He is 0-7 this year in sets which went to 5:5.
Never occurred in the Open era a H2H in which one player won 20 matches more than the other #. Everything indicated that it should have been happened in Miami’s third round as Roger Federer playing great tennis lately, faced Andy Roddick [34], who has been struggling with problems for months, playing tight matches with much more inferior opponents. Federer as usual held service games comfortably, but didn’t bother to give his best in return games. It’s his standard and understandable tactics because he’s one of the biggest specialists of playing tie-breaks in history, but Roddick is too, and with a couple of strong serves and a bit of luck managed to hang in there taking the tie-break 7 points to 4. Federer stepped up and notched a streak of 7 consecutive games, he could expect extending the streak as he led 1:0 (40-0) in the 3rd set. In that moment Roddick rediscovered his form characteristic for the times he was a serious threat, with a bunch of aces and smashes withstood four break points, and broke Federer in the following game with four astonishing forehand winners. It pumped him up as well as the favorable crowd. To the end of the match he was keeping high 1st serve percentage and uncompromising ground-strokes. Federer had a ray of hope leading 30-15 in the 10th game, but the former 2-time champion responded with 3 service bombs to clinch a 7-6(4), 1-6, 6-4 victory in exactly two hours, snapping Federer’s 16-match winning streak. All of a sudden with Juan Monaco, Almagro and Fish in his section, Roddick is a slight favorite to reach the semi-finals. In a concurrent match to Roddick’s, on Grandstand, Monaco erased a 2:4* (15-40) deficit in the 3rd set to beat Gael Monfils 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

# The most lopsided H2H’s in the Open era:
Roger Federer vs. Andy Roddick  21-3 (2001-2012)
Bjorn Borg vs. Vitas Gerulaitis 17-0 (1974-1981)
Ivan Lendl vs. Tim Mayotte  17-0 (1980-1990)
Ivan Lendl vs. Brad Gilbert 16-0 (1982-1991)
Ivan Lendl vs. Scott Davis 16-0 (1980-1991)
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Miami – Round 1st + 2nd

Great draw this year in Miami –  28 best players of the world presented their skills (Wawrinka and Youzhny withdrew, Soderling still off the tour)… After 12 years of participating in the biggest tournaments, Fernando Gonzalez [221] played his last career-match. On Wednesday, during the first night session this week, he was fighting bravely but lost 5-7, 6-4, 6-7(3) to Nicolas Mahut. The Frenchman saved three break points at 3:3 in the 3rd set (all with aces, one on second serve), later on Gonzalez fought off a double match point to push the encounter into the tie-break. “I saved a couple of match points before, and I felt that it’s going be the end, and then I have the chance to keep playing,” said Gonzalez. “I had my chances. But Nicolas played better in the important moments, and I was a little bit tired at the end. I don’t have the energy to get up in the morning, train like I have to train, travel like I have to travel. And I’ve been doing this for many years. If I’m not going to be 100 per cent, I think I have to do something else.” Also a third set tie-break was required in matches of powerful servers, Ivo Karlovic and Gilles Muller fired 27 aces each, beating respectively Lukasz Kubot and Alex Bogomolov. Kubot, just like at Indian Wells (Roddick), suffered a defeat despite serving to win the match.
Other veteran who may join Gonzalez not in the distant future, James Blake [69] for the first time in eight meetings was beaten by Nikolay Davydenko (a veteran as well) 6-4, 4-6, 4-6. In the following round Davdenko lost almost a copy-match of his first round win, being beaten by a fresh Top 10’er John Isner, who said: “As the match went on I felt more and more comfortable with my serve and my game once he was all the way back there [four feet behind the baseline]. I feel like I served pretty well; pretty much hit a lot of my spots. I work on (my volley) in practice.” after a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over the aging Russian. At the same time retired players participate in the Champions Tour in Zurich. One of them, a former No. 1 Marat Safin declared that Isner would advance even higher in the ATP ranking: “He should be inside the Top 5. It’s difficult to play against someone of his size. He serves way too big. When he has a good day it’s almost impossible to play against him. I just don’t think he is consistent enough, but he is already improving and in a few years he will get more experienced. He’s Top Ten now and he definitely still has potential.” Steve Darcis has finally lost a tie-break (after winning 14 in a row, counting Challengers) as David Nalbandian ousted him 6-4, 7-6(0) – the Argentine had a triple match point on serve at 6:5. He lost to Tipsarevic in the next round, Nalbandian had defeated the Serb last week at Indian Wells.
Mardy Fish, completely out of form this year, faces a very tough task in Miami because he has to defend a lot of points as the last year’s semifinalist, and it might be his final moments as a Top 10 player. He has made a first good step dismissing Frank Dancevic 6-3, 7-6(1), coming back from 0:3 in the 2nd set. He snapped 9-match, and 8-tie-break winning streak of the Canadian [132], who triumphed  last Sunday in the strongest Challenger of the season, in Dallas as a qualifier. After identical scoreline his match won Marin Cilic, dropping a double break in the 2nd set against Igor Kunitsyn.
“The big four” breezed through to the third round convincingly, even Novak Djokovic, who had some troubles in each of his previous six wins over Marcos Baghdatis [42]. In the last match of the second round, the Serb broke his opponent only twice (6-4, 6-4), but played a perfect match on his own serve, except the 8th game of the 2nd set when he was forced to save a double break point, and held the serve after 7 deuces (16 minutes).

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US Open 1999

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I assume it’s the newest major which will have been added to my site in two years… Before the tournament started there were three strong favorites to the title: Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi [2] and two-time defending champion Patrick Rafter. … Continue reading

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Roland Garros 1982

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The compilation prepared based on articles written for the New York Times. The first major title for Mats Wilander [18], a Swedish teenager at the time,  who hadn’t won a tournament prior to Roland Garros ’82, and it was his … Continue reading

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Indian Wells – final

(3)Roger Federer d. (11)John Isner          7-6(7), 6-3     [1:21 h]

In the 1st set the weather was ugly again, the wind was blowing and raindrops forced players to halt the final after the first five games for 11 minutes. Isner was serving the whole set too conservatively (only 4 aces in the match, Federer fired 7), he managed to hold his serve six times though (saved a set point in the 12th game). The tie-break was weird, there were seven mini-breaks in total and decided a point at 7 all when Federer passed his opponent with a help of the frame (played backhand and the ball landed on the line, Isner let it go). A moment later he won the set on fourth set point with a service winner on Isner’s weaker backhand. The Swiss stepped up in the 7th game of the 2nd set. He invited Isner to the net three straight times to get three points (two with passing-shot winners, Isner made a volley error on break point). The devastated Isner played a very poor game at *3:5, and after a sloppy netted forehand from the American, Federer could celebrate his record tying 19th ‘1000’ tournament victory (73rd title). It’s a moment of the season when this question is understandable: will Federer regain the No. 1 spot in men’s tennis? Last year it seemed impossible, but at the moment with ‘Djodal’s vulnerability, three titles in a row by FedEx, and 39 wins in the last 41 matches (including easy victories over Nadal and Murray) his self-confidence must be huge, and the next week event in Miami looks like a fascinating prospect. “I served pretty well,” Isner said – in contrary to my observations. “I don’t think I lost the match because I didn’t serve as well. He was on top of me and his forehand was way too good. The hard thing now is staying inside of the top 10. That’s what I’ve got to work on.” Stats of the match.

Doubles final:
M.Lopez/R.Nadal d. J.Isner/S.Querrey 6-2, 7-6(3)

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