8th Week

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It was a weird week because ‘250’ tournaments had stronger draw than ‘500’ tournament in Memphis #. Regions Morgan Keegan Championships  have a valuable tradition, held since 1977 with many champions who were Nos. 1 in the world, in recent … Continue reading

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Deciding 3rd set tie-breaks

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I have counted all ATP tournaments, the World Team Cup matches and dead rubbers in the Davis Cup. Obviously this stats would look a bit otherwise if I included tie-breaks in the 5th set and 3rd set tie-breaks on lower … Continue reading

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Acasuso’s farewell

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The 29-year-old Jose Acasuso announces his retirement this week in Buenos Aires. Chucho’s career has been basically finished since 2009 when he suffered a severe knee injury, in the last two seasons he played barely four ATP tournaments and dropped … Continue reading

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7th Week

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Rotterdam – the first “500” tournament of the year: after a few editions the color of court has been changed from orange to green. The second significant change in comparison to previous seasons – the Dutch spectators had an occasion to … Continue reading

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Ranking by countries: Top 20 in years 1973-2016

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Because of last week’s USA’s stunning victory in the Davis Cup first round (over Switzerland), I thought that I’d prepare a stats considering the best players in the Open era by countries reminding the American force in the historical context. … Continue reading

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6th Week – Davis Cup (1R)

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The most beleaguered players in January (Djokovic, Nadal & Murray) are tired and skipped the first weekend of the Davis Cup 2012. Interestingly, all ties in the World Group were held indoors (three of them on clay). Although Murray didn’t … Continue reading

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5th Week

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European indoor swing has begun with tournaments in Zagreb and Montpellier (first edition in 2010, last year wasn’t held, this week replaced a tournament in Johannesburg). Mikhail “Colonel” Youzhny [39] after many years on the tour has finally modified his … Continue reading

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Djokovic vs. Nadal – 30 matches

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Their epic Australian Open final broke two records: the longest match in Melbourne and the longest Grand Slam final. What a perfect timing to create such a battle during 30th meeting of these two modern gladiators. Although Djokovic has won … Continue reading

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Australian Open – final

Two best players in the world get a milestone in their astonishing rivalry: for the first time in the Open era two guys played against each other in three straight major finals (following the championship matches in London and New York), and it happened at their 30th meeting (only five pairs before had reached this number), moreover they make the 18th pair to play in each slam. The occasion was exceptional and the match as well…

 (1)Novak Djokovic d. (2)Rafael Nadal 5-76-4, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5       [5:53 h]

Both finalists began slowly in contrary to their previous final in New York where the pace of the match was sensational from start to finish. In the 5th game Djokovic twisted a bit his right ankle. He strengthen his 1st serve (3 out of 9 aces of the final served in that game) due to limitation of the movement, but Nadal broke him after a couple ‘deuces’. The angry Nole changed his T-shirt from white to a black one, and needed two more games to get back to his normal rhythm. He won three straight games from 2:4, but Nadal notched the same streak afterwards and took the very important 1st set (he had only lost one match of his previous 134 in Grand Slams after winning the first set). In the following two sets, Djokovic quickly raced to a 4:1* lead, the main difference – Nadal erased a break in the 2nd set, saving three set points in two games, he even had a game point to level at 5 games apiece, but Djokovic hit the line with his return then – the linesman called it “out”, the chair umpire Pasqual Maria reacted immediately, and Nadal lost the challenge and his concentration. Djokovic returned to his white T-shirt before the 3rd set.
Seemingly the crucial moment of the final appeared in the 8th game of the 4th set with Djokovic leading 4:3 (40/0) – Nadal saved a triple mini-match point in a great style: forehand winner, service winner, backhand winner, he held his service game and the rain came for the first time within the fortnight! The roof was closed, the court toweled by ball-boys, and after the interruption players continued the final without another warm-up -Djokovic won first five points, Nadal maintained his composure and the tie-break decided. The Spaniard was more passive but prevailed two long rallies at 3:5 – D’Joke missed forehand twice. Nadal delivers a service winner, Djokovic misses forehand again, Nadal celebrates on his knees (I’ve never seen such a reaction from him after winning a set) and for the first time in their 30th meeting, they enter the decisive fifth set! Djokovic begins it (and finishes) in the black T-shirt. At the beginning of the set it’s pretty clear that they’re going to break two records: the longest match in Melbourne and the longest final in Grand Slam tournaments. Just like two days before, it’s a dogfight involving the strongest players in the world, physically and mentally, a real war of attrition of two best active 5-set specialists. Djokovic looks deadly tired in the 4th game which he holds, it seems he may lose the final set quickly, his ability to recover during long matches is amazing though, Nadal’s too. They move beyond themselves with tremendous determination. Rafa leads *4:2 (30/15) when makes perhaps the easiest error of the match, trying to pass his opponent from a comfortable position. It’s the vital moment of the championships – Djokovic resurrects. At *3:4 (15/0) he wins the longest rally of the match at the time (26 strokes). At 4:4 Nadal takes a revenge winning even longer rally in the opening point (32 strokes) – Djokovc collapses on the court. He hangs in the match with an easy hold (to 15) and breaks Nadal in the 11th game after a forehand error from the Spaniard. The last game delivers big emotions and hope for another twist, Djokovic 30/0, then 30/40, saves a break point with a cross-court backhand winner – really brave shot, has an advantage, strong serve down the T, Nadal returns somehow almost diving, inside-outside forehand and Djokovic defends his title at 1:37 a.m. local time, after magnificent effort in his last two matches – 4:50 against Murray followed up by 5:53 against Nadal – no-one in the Grand Slam history spent so much time on court in the last two rounds!! They are so tired that ball-boys bring them chairs as one of officials boringly speaks. “We made history tonight and unfortunately there couldn’t be two winners,” Djokovic says during the ceremony. “Good morning, everybody,” Nadal laughs. “Congratulations to Novak and his team. They deserve it. They are doing something fantastic, so congratulations.
Djokovic captured 29th title (five majors) in his 129th tournament at the main level, he becomes just the fifth player in the Open era beside Laver, Sampras, Federer and Nadal to win three consecutive majors, now he faces a task (like Sampras in 1994 and Federer in years 2006-07) to conquer Paris grabbing four Slams in a row. It’s very probable that he will reach the final there to play against Nadal once again! “Under the circumstances it was definitely the greatest match I’ve ever played. The match that could have gone either way. The match that almost went six hours. Adding to all that, it was a Grand Slam final and a win against the biggest rival.” stated the Serb a day after the final. Stats of the final

Doubles final:
L.Paes/R.Stepanek d. (1)B.Bryan/M.Bryan 7-6(1), 6-2

Five longest matches at the Australian Open:
5 hours, 53 min. Novak Djokovic d. Rafael Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5 – Final, 2012
5 hours, 14 min. Rafael Nadal d. Fernando Verdasco 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-6(2), 6-7(1), 6-4 – SF, 2009
5 hours, 11 min. Boris Becker d. Omar Camporese 7-6(4), 7-6(5), 0-6, 4-6, 14-12 – 3R, 1991
4 hours, 59 min. Andy Roddick d. Younes El Aynaoui 4-6, 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-4, 21-19 – QF, 2003
4 hours, 59 min. Pete Sampras d. Tim Mayotte 7-6(6), 6-7(5), 4-6, 7-5, 12-10 – 1R, 1990
Five longest Grand Slam finals:
5 hours, 53 min. Novak Djokovic d. Rafael Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5 – Australian Open, 2012
4 hours, 55 min. Mast Wilander d. Ivan Lendl 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 – US Open, 1988
4 hours, 48 min. Rafael Nadal d. Roger Federer 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-7(8), 9-7 – Wimbledon, 2008
4 hours, 47 min. Ivan Lendl d. Mats Wilander 6-7(7), 6-0, 7-6(4), 6-4 – US Open, 1987
4 hours, 47 min. Mast Wilander d. Guillermo Vilas 1-6, 7-6(6), 6-0, 6-4 – Roland Garros, 1982
5-set barometer: 15-4 Rafael Nadal, 15-5 Novak Djokovic, 12-6 Andy Murray
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Australian Open – semifinals

For the third time in the last four majors, the top four players advanced to the semifinals, however, in Paris and New York there was a different configuration than this year in Melbourne – Djokovic faced Federer with the balanced outcome whilst Nadal overcame Murray twice (thrice counting their semifinal at Wimbledon). Unfortunately – in regard of lack of variety – we can expect their another meetings in the remaining majors this year, which looking at it from a different perspective is fascinating though. There’s no doubt that these four guys have been playing for five seasons in a special league inaccessible for others, creating legendary rivarlies between themselves.

2nd semifinal:

 (1)Novak Djokovic d. (4)Andy Murray      6-3, 3-6, 6-7(4), 6-1, 7-5     [4:50 h]

The repeat of the last year’s final was announced by Andy Murray as a dogfight. And indeed, the man from Great Britain was right. As early as the second game of the match suggested Murray’s exceptional mindset, he won the game after saving a double break point and began encouraging the crowd for a bigger support, something what he does only at the crucial stages of his toughest matches. As the match progressed, Djokovic established his superiority and after taking the opening set, he led 2:0* in the 2nd set. Since the 3rd game the level of play changed distinctively, an average rally became longer and more punishing, particular games more tighter; Murray dealt better with these conditions and got the 67-minute set. The pitched battle was continued in the following set already in the 1st game which lasted 18 minutes (!), and was concluded with Djokovic’s first service held since the second game of the previous set. Murray in that game was drinking his beverage between the rallies, the Serb looked exhausted. The physical tiredness caught the Scot too, it happened in the 4th game, and the play got back on the level terms. Djokovic leading 5:4* squandered three set points – first Murray hit an ace out-wide, then a forehand winner on the line. On the third set point Murray surprised his opponent with a forehand drop-shot which forced the Serb to an extreme stretch in vain three strokes later. Murray has been playing tie-breaks for twelve months with huge confidence and confirmed it this time, prevailing 7 points to 4, producing a service winner on his second set point followed by a roar towards his box. Murray had to pay the price for his amazing effort in two very long sets. Djokovic needed less time to build a 4:0 lead than to win the first game of the previous set! I was excited before the 5th set because both guys are the biggest specialists of deciding sets beside Nadal among active players (Djokovic 13-5, Murray 12-5 prior to that moment). The Scot changed his T-shirt from red to white one. First five games went with serve, at 3:2 (0/30), Djokovic played three brilliant backhands in succession and made a break which seemed crucial. Murray is a great fighter though, at *2:5 being two points away from defeat twice, he produced two service winners and broke back in the next game to ‘love’ encouraging the crowd once again. He was challangeless at the time. At 5 all he had a double mini-match point – Djokovic made a service winner, at 30/40 won a 30-stroke rally hitting the line with risky forehand shot! Third break point for Murray flown away with his simple backhand error at the 4th stroke of the rally. Djokovic finishes the game with drive-volley, game duration – 9 minutes. 12th game delivers quickly a double match point for the Serbian warrior, he chases the net and plays a safe but winning forehand volley, the next second celebrates on his back one of the biggest wins in his career, almost 5-hour war of attrition ended thirty minutes after midnight. “Andy deserves the credit to come back from 2-5 down. He was fighting. I was fighting,” Djokovic said collecting victory No. 400. “Not many words that can describe the feeling of the matchEvidently it was a physical match… it was one of the best matches I played. Emotionally and mentally it was equally hard.”… Stats of the match
Well, this match goes to history books as one of the best in history of the tournament, and confirms – at least for the time being – Murray’s status of the eternal No. 4. I’m curious how this loss will affect his mind, he was struggling the lack of motivation a few months in the last two years after losing the Australian Open finals. His position of the No. 1 contender and the Grand Slam champion becomes much more dubious because his better match-up player (Federer) dropped to No. 3. It means Murray in each biggest event will face a potential task to play against Djokovic and Nadal in his last two matches. It might be a mountain too high to climb. Nadal had already established a mental edge over Murray before 2012, Djokovic will have it from now on. He won that important ‘the best of three’ thriller in Rome, now he adds ‘the best of five’ marathon in Mebourne to their rivalry which may be a deciding factor in the years to come.

# Top 4 seeded players in semi-finals at the Australian Open:
1988: 1 – Lendl, 2 – Edberg, 3 – Wilander, 4 – Cash
2005: 1 – Federer, 2 – Roddick, 3 – Hewitt, 4 – Safin
2012: 1 – Djokovic, 2 – Nadal, 3 – Federer, 4 – Murray

1st semifinal:

(2)Rafael Nadal d. (3)Roger Federer            6-7(5), 6-2, 7-6(5), 6-4       [3:41 h]

It was their record tying 10th meeting in Slams (Ivan Lendl vs. John McEnroe 7-3), the second one in Melbourne after a three-year break. Federer took an early initiative, led 3:0* extending a number of winning games against Rafa to ten (!, beat him 6-3, 6-0 in London last November). The Swiss afterwards led 4:1 in games and 4:1 in the tie-break, but Nadal was allowed to play a rally which could give him saving third straight set point – made a silly backhand error. At 2:2 in the 2nd set, Federer had a break point, until that moment both guys had converted two chances each, this time Federer played a sloppy forehand and the momentum shifted onto Nadal’s side.  The Spaniard got five consecutive games (made a break in the 6th game thanks to two awesome passing-shots, the first one in response to Federer’s beautiful backhand overhead) and had a double break point to get the sixth straight game at the beginning of the 3rd set.Even fireworks, which forced players to leave the court for a few minutes (Australian Day celebrated annually on 26 January) at 5:2 in the 2nd set, didn’t distract his concentration. There was an exchange of breaks in the middle of the 3rd set and tie-break determined again. Nadal raced to a 6:1 lead, Federer saved quickly four set points, but on the fifth, Nadal used his simplest and most efficient action – slice serve on backhand followed up with a heavy inside-out forehand. The Swiss faced enormously tough task to beat his biggest foe in at least 4-hour match, he kept believing though, but leading 4:3 sent his forehand wide around 10 centimeters on break point. It was a crucial moment, Nadal broke in the following game, and serving for the match saved a break point (after squandering the first match point) thanks to his extraordinary defensive skills – Federer was lobbed despite a very good approach shot which usually gives him a point directly or in the next stroke with an easy overhead… It’s the end of Federer’s fifth longest winning streak # “’Please win the point!’, that’s all,” Nadal mentioned his mindset on the vital set point in the 3rd set. “I was very, very nervous at that moment. Losing four set points in a row is tough, especially when you play the toughest in history.” Despite the painful loss, Federer stays positive: “It was a tough match physically as well. I’m disappointed, but it’s only the beginning of the season. I’m feeling all right, so it’s OK.”

# Federer’s winning streaks (at least 20 matches):
41 – lost to Guillermo Canas, Indian Wells 2007
35 – lost to David Nalbandian, Shanghai 2005
26 – lost to Marat Safin, Australian Open 2005
25 – lost to Richard Gasquet, Monte Carlo 2005
24 – lost to Rafael Nadal, Australian Open 2012
23 – lost to Dominik Hrbaty, Cincinnati 2004
21 – lost to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Montereal 2009
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