Cincinnati – SF

Perhaps Mardy Fish made a mistake that accepted conditions of Andy Murray in the first semifinal, so a variety of rotations in cautious baseline rallies. The match was played during a very hot weather, it could influence on a lack of dynamism of the usually offensive American, who had problems with shoelaces throughout the match. There were six breaks of serve in the weird 2nd set, Fish broke back three times immediately and held a double set point at 6:5* (40-15) – Murray saved the danger with good serves, he did the same with the third set point at 6:7 in the tie-break. Fish managed to fight off two match points (the second one with a very close “challenge”) but the more patient Murray kept the ball patientlly in play to get two crucial unforced errors from Fish in the end. The Brit winning 6-3, 7-6 #, avenged three defeats to Fish from the previous season, the third of them occurred on the same court in Cincinnati at the quarter-final stage.
The second semifinal totally disappointed and surprised. Tomas Berdych led 5:3* (30-15) in the 1st set against Novak Djokovic, who seemed to accept the loss of the set, however, he won four straight games with a bunch of Berdych’s errors and the Czech suddenly retired, he did it also in their previous encounter – semifinal in Dubai this year. “In the beginning, [the injury] just started like if I had to stretch, especially for the backhand side and some air balls,” explained Berdych his right shoulder injury, “But since the match was going on, then especially it started more on the serve, which is for me the worst“.

# Murray’s 300th win, this week also 8 years older Radek Stepanek clinched 300th win
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Cincinnati – QF

In six previous meetings against Rafael Nadal [2], Mardy Fish [7] had won just two sets. Nevertheless, this time Nadal wasn’t an overwhelming favorite due to problems with right-hand fingers and tiredness after a marathon with Verdasco a day before. Fish knew it as he said on Thursday: “If you want to play someone like Rafa, you hope that he plays a match that’s four hours long before you play him. I mean, that’s as physical as it gets. It’s hot out there, so I’m sure he’ll be pretty tired.” And indeed, Nadal was tired #, Fish was playing intelligently (a lot of balls on Nadal’s backhand – worse than usually in regard of swollen fingers), serving well (12 aces) and recorded his first win over former No. 1 in 1 hour 39 minutes. There was a moment in the 2nd set when Nadal had his chance to break back but made a forehand error on Fish’s second serve at 3:4 (40-30). Fish – unbroken so far in the tournament – now meets Andy Murray [4], who notched third straight sets victory, he needed four minutes less than Fish to knock out Gilles Simon [12] 6-3, 6-3.
Tomas Berdych [9] in impressive style (didn’t face a break point) ousted the two-time defending champion Roger Federer 6-2, 7-6 ## – it is Berdych’s third win over the Swiss [3] in the last four meetings. The Czech broke a streak of five consecutive defeats in ‘Masters 1000’ quarter-finals. Berdych said: “I was really working on [my serve] after Wimbledon. When I had few weeks off, I was really practising hard, and especially this was the one main thing that I was really like trying to work on more than the other things.”
Gael Monfils [8] drew conclusions of the last three devastating defeats to Novak Djokovic [1] in the last twelve months. The Frenchman in my opinion played one of the best and most mature matches in his career, his second serve was faster than ever, was attacking the net often with many successful volleys and didn’t allow Djokovic to shift himself to a deep defense, playing straightforward ground-strokes. It was a hight quality tennis, especially in the 2nd set; Monfils after breaking the Serb twice in the 1st set, came back from a break down in the 2nd after very long game and led 4:3 being two games away from famous victory. Unfortunately for him, couldn’t stand the cosmic pace (at the beginning of the 3rd set looked like a man before fainting…) and the rock-solid D’Joke as usual was able to lie low the assault of an opponent to get five games in a row, which established a safe 2:0 advantage in the deciding set. The Serb prevailed 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in 2 hours 33 minutes creating a new record of the most consecutive victories in ‘Masters 1000’ tournaments – 30. His another big triumph might be an extremely tough task because all other three players left in the event, won first three rounds easily, albeit Fish like Djokovic has played eight matches in the last two weeks, so physical tiredness may catch him as well…

# Nadal’s four longest 3-set wins and their aftermath the following day:
Rome, 2007: N.Davydenko 7-6, 6-7, 6-4 (3 hours, 39 minutes) -> F.Gonzalez 6-2, 6-2
Chennai, 2008: C.Moya 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 (3 hours, 54 minutes) -> M.Youzhny 0-6, 1-6
Madrid, 2009: N.Djokovic 3-6, 7-6, 7-6 (4 hours, 11 minutes) -> R.Federer 4-6, 4-6
Cincinnati, 2011: F.Verdasco 7-6, 6-7, 7-6 (3 hours, 38 minutes) -> M.Fish 3-6, 4-6
## Four longest winning streaks in Cincinnati:
17 – Mats Wilander (1983-85)
14 – Michael Chang (1993-95)
11 – Roger Federer (2009-11)
10 – Andre Agassi (1995-96)
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Cincinnati – 3R

Two years ago, Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco made the longest match at the Australian Open, this time the left-handed Spaniards created the longest match in the history of the Cincinnati tournament, 7-6, 6-7, 7-6 in 3 hours 38 minutes in a sunny, mid-80s F (30-degree C) afternoon. Poor Verdasco, who’d lost to Nadal all previous encounters, could win both losing sets of their third round clash. He led 5:3 in the 1st tie-break and was two points away from winning the match five times in the final tie-break trailing 1:5 before! Nando prior to the tie-break had also a break up in the middle of the set, unfortunately he has one of the worst final set tie-break records (5-14), and made easy forehand mistakes every time being two points away, simply couldn’t deal with the pressure mentally. Nadal was far from his best tennis, he burned the tips of his two fingers on his right hand when he touched a hot plate at a restaurant. It’s his third all-tie-break match #, extends H2H with Verdasco to 12-0 (13-0 counting a Challenger match). “You enjoy always a good match,” the defeated Spaniard said. “But when you lose in this way, of course it’s not easy to lose. You have it so close. Tennis is like that.”
In the other very long match, Gilles Simon [12] battled past David Ferrer 6-4, 6-7, 6-4 in 3 hours 8 minutes, despite wasting five match points in the 2nd set. Simon led 3:1* in the final set, but ‘Pics’ broke back to lead 4:3. The Spaniard for the second time in career has lost match winning a match point-down set, previosuly it happened after identical scoreline (!) seven years ago to Todd Martin in Barcelona. It’s also interesting that Simon has won all three matches this week losing a tie-break set. He is the only quarter-finalist outside the Top 10 – it’s a contrary to the last week’s Montreal where Novak Djokovic  made the quarter-finals as the only Top 5 player.

# Nadal’s all-tie-break matches:
2008, Chennai-SF: C.Moya 6-7(3), 7-6(8), 7-6(1)  – 4 m.p.
2008, Queens Club-QF: I.Karlovic 6-7(5), 7-6(5), 7-6(4)
2011, Cincinnati-3R: F.Verdasco 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 7-6(9)
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Cincinnati – 2R

This season delivered some good results from players born in the 90s, unfortunately the youngsters are too weak to consider them as a serious threat in the next 2-3 years in my opinion. In the Cincinnati second round, I watched two of them, Grigor Dimitrov [56] and Ryan Harrison [78]. The first one in extremely lucky circumstances (ridiculous net-cord) won the 1st set against David Ferrer, who was playing first tournament match on American hard-courts this Summer. Dimitrov tanked the 2nd, but showed good tennis in the 3rd set, even saved a triple match point in the 12th game with offensive attitude, but experienced “Pics” prevailed 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 winning the next two points. The Bulgarian annoys a bit trying to copy each Federer’s stroke, I have to admit he is talented, but I grasp a lack of fire in his mentality, which might be an obstacle in the future.
Harrison has nice volley and great 2nd serve (tremendous kick), but he doesn’t know which tactics should be implemented in the right moments. I think he should shed weight (3-4 kilograms) and put accent on the more offensive game plan; during a 6-2, 6-3 win, Novak Djokovic exploited mercilessly Harrison’s weaker backhand side. Djokovic comparing the North American ‘Masters’ tournaments said: “It’s totally different conditions from Montreal, so you got to get used to that… it’s much faster here. Ball flies through the air faster, so it’s really hard to control.” At the moment I can’t freeze out a possibility of another Djokovic-Fish final. Mardy Fish impressed me a lot trashing 6-0, 6-2 Nikolay Davydenko [31]. Of course the Russian declines this season, but losing only two games against him arouses respect. As I mentioned last week, Fish has improved his forehand, but looking profoundly into his game we can pick out very solid returns (great depth) and intelligent baseline game, both factors are connected with anticipation, Fish is experienced, fitter and it allows him to read the game very well.
Also the fellow American – Alex Bogomolov, Jr. [50] – plays tennis of his life, albeit on a different level. Yesterday he stunned Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 6-4, holding every service game. Now he faces Andy Murray, who came back on the right track after a hiccup in Montreal – the same with Rafael Nadal. I’m looking forward for his potential quarterfinal clash with Fish.

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Llodra vs. Youzhny = 3rd set tie-break (Cincy – 1R)

Earlier this year I mentioned that Philipp Kohlschreiber and Robin Soderling made the 2nd pair among active players to notch three matches against each other with a final set tie-break. Michael Llodra [32] and Mikhail Youzhny [17] joined them today… They played also a deciding tie-break set last week at the Canadian Open, both first round meetings won the Frenchman, however, Youzhny had his chances on both occasions – last week was two points away at 6:5* (30 all), today he had two mini-match points at 4:4 in the 3rd set (one saved by Llodra with a second serve ace!), in the tie-break led 2:0.
# Three matches between Llodra and Youzhny decided in the 3rd set tie-break:
2006, Davis Cup: Youzhny 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(3)
2011, Montreal, 1R: Llodra 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4)
2011, Cincinnati, 1R: Llodra 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(4)
Their current record in the 3rd set TB: Llodra 9-12; Youzhny 17-16
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Golubev snaps 18-match losing streak (Cincy – 1R)

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The 24-year-old Kazakh [101] has finally won an ATP match beating Stanislas Wawrinka 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 (there was 4:4 in the 2nd set). Thanks to this win, Golubev will avoid overcoming Vincent Spadea‘s shameful record obtained in years 1999-00 – … Continue reading

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Cincinnati – 1R

Historically, the Canadian Open-Cincinnati combo is tougher to win than the Indian Wells-Miami combo. It’s very interesting whether Novak Djokovic will be the first man to win both combos within a season. Obviously there’s a reminiscence in his 2011 season to the previous most impressive season of the Open era, which occurred 27 years ago – John McEnroe lost his first match of the season in Paris then (like Djokovic this year) and the second one in Cincinnati (to Vijay Amritraj in the second round) just after winning the Canadian Open. Will Djokovic in some sense repeat it? For me he was a 100% favorite to win in Montreal, now I’m pretty convinced he wins easily first three matches in Cincinnati, from semi-finals onwards I give him “only” 70% to get another ‘Masters’ title. Except Robin Soderling all the best players appeared in the main draw with a few notable names absent last week: David Ferrer, Jurgen Melzer, Xavier Malisse, Tommy Haas, James Blake & Andy Roddick [15].
The latter played his first tournament match since Wimbledon and finished it in a bad atmosphere. Roddick led with a set and break against Philipp Kohlschreiber [47], but double faults crept into his game which caused two breaks within three service games (had been unbroken before). After losing the 2nd set he broke his racquet and received a warning. Roddick wasted four break points in the 1st game of the final set, and in the following game at 30-30 made another double fault – thumped the ball into the stands with fury and Carlos Bernardes gave him the second code violation which meant losing a point and game in the consequence. Roddick couldn’t deal with this decision, began to focus more on discussing with Bernardes than on his own game and quickly lost the set and the entire clash 7-6, 5-7, 1-6. He said he wants to play next week (he will enter a tournament a week before the US Open for the first time since 2002): “I got to get to Winston Salem and try to get a couple matches. That’s it. For me it’s silly to think about New York yet. Obviously if I go and win Winston Salem then it’s a different ballgame, or final of Winston Salem it’s a different ballgame. So a lot can change in a matter of two weeks.” A-Rod will drop out of the Top 20 next Monday for the first time in 10 years.

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Montreal – final

(1)Novak Djokovic d. (6)Mardy Fish    6-2, 3-6, 6-4   (2:23 h)

Traditionally, Fish lost a final of a big tournament in the final set (four ‘1-2’ defeats in ‘Masters 1000’ events and one ‘2-3’ at the Olympics). It seemed that Djokovic was on a right track to get another straight sets victory. After taking the 1st set easily, he led 2:1* (30/0) in the 2nd set when Fish began to play his best tennis winning 6 out of the next 7 games! A hope of the biggest triumph of his career virtually disappeared as he lost the serve to ‘love’ with an overhand error from the baseline in the 5th game of the final set. Djokovic held reliably the next three service games to notch the 53rd season victory with a service winner, albeit Fish saved a triple match point in the last game and played an open rally at ‘deuce’ – made a forehand error. D’Joke has improved H2H against Fish to 7-0 (8-0 counting their Hopman Cup match), and becomes the first man in the history of ‘Masters 1000’ to win 5 titles within a season (his 27th title overall). He joins ‘Fedal’ in ‘Masters’ double digits #. “It was a close match, for sure,” Djokovic said, “A couple of points, one good return game in the third set, decided the winner. But it’s a final. I knew that he is not going to give me the match and the win. I knew that I have to fight for it. Up to the last moment, you didn’t really know who is going to win. But I believed I could do it. I had composure when I needed to. I think that was decisive.”

Doubles final:
(4)M.Llodra/N.Zimonjic d. (1)B.Bryan/M.Bryan 6-4, 6-7(5), [10-5]

# Record of finals in the ‘Masters 1000’ events among active players:
19-9 Rafael Nadal
17-12 Roger Federer
10-6 Novak Djokovic
6-1 Andy Murray
5-4 Andy Roddick
4-2 Juan Carlos Ferrero
3-0 Nikolay Davydenko
2-5 Lleyton Hewitt
2-4 David Nalbandian
1-3 Ivan Ljubicic
1-1 Tommy Haas, Tomas Berdych
1-0 Tommy Robredo, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Robin Soderling
0-4 Mardy Fish
0-2 Radek Stepanek, Richard Gasquet, James Blake, Fernando Gonzalez, Gael Monfils, David Ferrer
0-1 Nicolas Massu, Rainer Schuettler, Stanislas Wawrinka, Gilles Simon, Juan Martin del Potro, Fernando Verdasco
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Montreal – SF

Mardy Fish [8], a huge favorite of the first semifinal, delivered a routine 6-3, 6-4 win over Janko Tipsarevic [24] to get the third final in the last four weeks. The American No. 1 implemented a different tactics than in the previous three matches – he was going to the net after each 1st serve and frequently during the rallies after hard strokes, especially from the backhand side. ‘Tipsy’ couldn’t find the rhythm excluding a short period of the 2nd set when he won 12 points in a row since *0:2 (0-30).
Monfils was able to go with Novak Djokovic [1] a limb for a limb first four games, Monfils’s fellow Frenchman – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga [16], only four games more. There was a hope for a great show until the 10th game in the 1st set, when Tsonga leading 30-15 lost four points in a row. Djokovic won five straight games in total from 4:4 and Tsonga with some pain in the right forearm decided to retire; unfortunately that’s what you get in matches with the best players – the opponents know that they have some chances playing 100% fit, if they’re not fit enough, they are prone to give a walkover or retirement (Nole has already received six this year). It’s 11th consecutive win for him and 26th in ‘Masters 1000’ events – he really should overcome Federer’s record from years 2005-2006 #. D’Joke will be an overwhelming favorite against Fish tomorrow, in Cincinnati should reach semifinals without serious troubles (Harrison or Chela first, then probably Wawrinka or Isner and very likely Monfils again in the quarter-finals).

# The longest winning streaks in ‘Masters 1000′ tournaments:
29 – Roger Federer (2005-06)
26 – Novak Djokovic (2011)
19 – Pete Sampras (1994)
18 – Rafael Nadal, twice (2005 & 2010)
17 – Thomas Muster (1995)
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Montreal – QF

In the first quarterfinal, Mardy Fish ousted Stanislas Wawrinka 6-3, 6-7, 6-0 after an unusual encounter consisted of 15 (!) breaks of serve. Fish wasted two match points in the tie-break #, but quickly recovered breaking Wawrinka twice (to ’30’ & ‘0’) in the first three games of the final set. Fish has been playing tennis of his life in the last 12 months. I think he is even better this year because his weaker side (forehand) finally is not a defensive stroke, moreover he’s been playing with tremendous confidence on hardcourts, having under his belt so many diverse matches played in 10-year-old career. “It was tough to get a hold,” Fish said, “The conditions were playing slow and we couldn’t win that last point on serve. We had the returns dialed in… [But] I knew I was playing the right style of tennis, I just wasn’t executing.” He now faces Janko Tipsarevic [24], who needed only one break in each set of his match with Tomas Berdych (6-4, 6-4). It’s the biggest success in Tipsarevic’s career which gives him first advancement to the Top 20 in the ATP ranking. A similar scenario and the same scoreline was repeated in the following match, in which Jo-Wilfried Tsonga overcame Nicolas Almagro, however, the Spaniard had three break points to break back in the last game, but massive serves helped Tsonga tremendously.
The final outcome of the last quarterfinal was outwardly open solely in the first 15 minutes. Unfortunately Gael Monfils hasn’t weapons on a regular basis to threaten Novak Djokovic. Monfils’s push-balls may work against erratic ball-bashers but in a confrontation with the rock-solid D’Joke (on the baseline, his net-game still is the weakest link despite improvement), these shots look like adequate to an inferior league. Djokovic since 2:2 in the 1st set won 9 consecutive games and Monfils avoided a bagel in the 2nd set (even got a break chance to win two games in a row), actually thanks to his exhibition attitude which entertained the crowd and relaxed the Serb too much for just five minutes.
I suppose this tournament is vital for the final ranking in the end of the season. With early exits of Murray, Nadal and Federer, and another very good performance of Djokovic, No. 1 in December for the Serb is virtually guaranteed. There’s no sign he would suddenly lose his magic form, on the other hand there are around 10 players who possess abilites to deal on equal terms with “Fedalray” – for the first time since Paris 2006, quarterfinals of a ‘Masters 1000′ event, were played without any of these three guys… I’m very curious whether they will recover in Cincinnati next week, but there’s a possibility they’re subconsciously afraid of a potential clash with “almighty” Djokovic, in Murray’s case it might be also a fear of another defeat to Nadal… For multiple “Masters’ champions it must be a psychologically difficult situation, playing a tournament where in semi-finals (or in the final in Nadal’s case) hypothetically awaits the unstoppable “Serbian breadsticker” 😀 ##

# Fish’s wins with m.p.-up losing sets:
2001, Scottsdale: T.Enqvist 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 –  2 m.p.
2001, Indian Wells: M.Philippoussis 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-4 – 2 m.p.
2003, Stockholm: M.Ancic 6-4, 6-7(7), 7-6(4) – 3 m.p.
2011, Montreal: S.Wawrinka 6-3, 6-7(8), 6-0 – 2 m.p.
## H2H’s of the Top 4 in 2011:
– Murray vs. ‘Djodal’: 0-5
– Federer vs. ‘Djodal’: 1-6
– Nadal vs. Djokovic: 0-5
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