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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Montreal – 3R

Viktor Troicki [15] just like Nadal yesterday, lost a match in which had opportunities to win both losing sets; taking into account the progress of his match with Gael Monfils [7], I’m prone to say that his loss is more painful than Nadal’s one. Troicki was a dominant figure through a  set and a half, he led 6-3, 4:3* (30-0), but Monfils managed to hold his serve winning a spectacular point at 15-30 in that game, which gave him the first reason for the fist pump. The Frenchman survived three match points serving at 5:6 – Troicki had the best chance on the first match point but missed awfully, trying to finish it off with a backhand down the line. The Serb had the match in his hands again in the 3rd set, led 5:3, and was serving at 5:4 (30 all) – made a double fault… In the tie-break he saved three consecutive match points, but on the fourth, Monfils fired an ace followed by a little dance of victory. Troicki has distincitvely the worst m.p. record among the tennis elite: 1-7 #.
In the same time on the other court, Mardy Fish got revenge for losing to Ernests Gulbis in the Los Angeles final two weeks ago. Fish lost 4-6 in the 3rd set then, this time prevailed 6-4 in the 3rd (Gulbis in the 9th game saved 5 match points on serve). Jo-Wilfried Tsonga impressed a lot (especially in the deciding set) in the last match of the day, dissmising Roger Federer 7-6, 4-6, 6-1. Tsonga saved a set point with a powerful serve in the 1st set, he has beaten Federer twice in Montreal, and twice in the last two months. “He’s confident right now and he played an excellent third set,” said Federer, “The first two sets were tighter. I should maybe have won the first one. I had some opportunities. In the second I was able to hold my serve. I might have won, but he was able to finish off the match very well.”

# Troicki’s m.p. matches (1-7):
2008, Moscow: M.Zverev 4-6, 6-3, 5-7 – 2 m.p.
2009, Umag: M.Gonzalez 4-6, 6-3, 6-7(6) – 3 m.p.
2009, Basel: M.Cilic 6-7(7), 7-6(8), 6-7(6)  – 3 m.p.
2010, Belgrade: S.Wawrinka 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-7(6)  – 2 m.p.
2010, Wimbledon: J.Melzer 7-6(5), 6-4, 3-6, 6-7(6), 3-6 – 1 m.p.
2010, Tokyo: J.Melzer 7-6(7), 3-6, 7-6(3) –  1 m.p.
2010, Tokyo: R.Nadal 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-7(7) –  2 m.p.
2011, Montreal: G.Monfils 6-3, 6-7(0), 6-7(5) –  3 m.p.
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Montreal – 2R

Three players had to play two matches on Wednesday because their first round encounters were interrupted by rain: Fernando Verdasco (1-1, *2:2 with Kamke), Feliciano Lopez (1-1, *2:3 with Stepanek) and John Isner (6-3, *1:2 with Baghdatis). Neither of them was able to get two wins within the day…
Kevin Anderson [35] made the biggest upset of the first two days of the tournament (the only second round meeting on Tuesday), outplaying in just 69 minutes the double defending champion Andy Murray 6-3, 6-1. “Sometimes you can make mistakes with your preparation, but I’ve done pretty similar stuff to what I’ve always done coming in here. It’s just a really bad day. It’s happened to me a couple times this year and also last year, as well” explained Murray, who spent 10 days in Miami preparing himself for two Masters Series events in North America. “It was probably not exactly what I was expecting” admitted Anderson, for whom it’s the biggest win since beating Novak Djokovic three years ago in Miami.
Djokovic in his first match as the new No. 1 in the world, played against Nikolay Davydenko [30] one of the weirdest sets in career. There were seven breaks of serve in the 1st set, the Russian led with a double break 4:1, and had a set point on serve at 5:4 – sent a forehand long. Djokovic said after a 7-5, 6-1 victory: “I didn’t play a match for four weeks. It took me some time to get used to the conditions, get into the match. I needed to hang in there. I needed to wait for the chances“. It was a good day for the Serbs: in 3-setters won D’Joke’s compatriots – Viktor Troicki and Janko Tipsarevic, the latter after a 3-hour-double-fault-fest (27 d.faults in total, including 3 in a row in the  tie-break!!) battled past Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 6-7, 6-3, Tipsy squandered a triple match point on serve in the 2nd set. He faces next Ivan Dodig [41] who scored the biggest win of his career stunning in the other 3-hour match, Rafael Nadal 1-6, 7-6, 7-6. Nadal led 3:1* in the 2nd set, he never before suffered a loss wasting such a big advantage, considering a set and a half! The Spaniard had his chances also in the deciding set, led 3:0, afterwards was two points away from win at three different occasions: *5:3 (30 all), 6:5* (deuce), 5:4* in the tie-break!! He was unusually tentative from his forehand side, but credit to the Croat for great service performance (19 aces; 11 in the final set!) and offensive attitude – he was going to the net after the 1st serve regularly since the middle of the 2nd set. Dodig converted the first match point with a cross-court backhand winner. “He played very well, very aggressive. He didn’t feel the pressure in the important moments. And at the end of the match, probably I was a little bit unlucky today,” said Nadal.
Ivo Karlovic [125] has won the most all-tie-break matches in history #. This time he prevailed in three tie-breaks against Philipp Petzschner in a match with only two breaks of serve (an exchange of breaks in the middle of the 3rd set, the German was *3:2 ’40-30′ ahead). In the deciding tie-break Karlovic led 3:0 with two mini breaks but Petzschner fought off a triple match point, only to lose his serve on the 4th match point.

# Karlovic’s all tie-break matches (8-3):
2004, Indian Wells: A.Pavel 6-7(10), 7-6(4), 6-7(4)
2004, Cincinnati: W.Moodie 6-7(2), 7-6(7), 7-6(9)
2004, St. Petersburg: A.Corretja 7-6(3), 6-7(5), 7-6(8)
2006, Barcelona: E.Korolev 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 7-6(5)
2007, Tokyo: H.T.Lee 7-6(6), 6-7(8), 7-6(8)
2007, Basel: T.Berdych 6-7(5), 7-6(2), 7-6(13)
2008, Queens Club: R.Nadal 7-6(5), 6-7(5), 6-7(4)
2008, Gstaad: V.Hanescu 7-6(4), 6-7(3), 6-7(11)
2011, Doha: P.Kohlschreiber 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 7-6(2)
2011, Houston: J.Isner 7-6(2), 6-7(2), 7-6(9)
2011, Montreal: P.Petzschner 6-7(0), 7-6(2), 7-6(6)
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Montreal – 1R

After five weeks of boredom, another tournament (the Canadian Open) with the best players kicked off. Traditionally, the three best players in the world (Djokovic, Nadal, Federer) skipped all tournaments which were held in the meantime. Two top 10’ers, Robin Soderling and David Ferrer pulled out, also the 2003 champion – Andy Roddick [12] and the Canadian rising star Milos Raonic – suffers an injury since Wimbledon.
In one of the most entertaining first round encounters,”wild card” Ernests Gulbis [55] survived a tough test against the former No. 1, Juan Carlos Ferrero [104]. In the 3rd set, the Latvian saved a mini-m.p. at 3:4 with a forehand winner, then at 4:5 was three times two points away from defeat, at one of those situations served a second serve ace on the line, and broke the Spaniard in the following game with an unconventional overhead-dropshot (!) to seal a 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 triumph with four booming serves. Gulbis was “two points away” also two weeks ago in his first round match in Los Angeles, where he ultimately became a champion. Gulbis’s next opponent Michael Llodra was two points away from loss as well (against M.Youzhny). Llodra, who won two doubles matches faving match points last weekend, according to my stats hasn’t won a m.p.down match in 179 main-level tournaments!
Andrey Golubev [99] is worth mentioning because the Kazakh chases an infamous record of the most defeats in a row, beaten by Thomaz Bellucci, Golubev has extended his losing streak to 18 – four defeats away from breaking Spadea’s record.

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31st WEEK

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Two and a half years ago, when Radek Stepanek [54] won a tournament in Brisbane, John Alexander asked him more or less “What do you do to be so fit at the end of the career?“, Stepanek answered: “It’s not the … Continue reading

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Koubek’s farewell

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The 34-year-old Austrian, announced his retirement a few months ago but has presumably played his last professional match this week in Kitzbuhel, along with Thassilo Haun lost in the first round to D.Bracciali/S.Gonzalez. I had an opportunity to follow his … Continue reading

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30th WEEK

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Los Angeles. Ernests Gulbis [84] is perhaps the most tricky player on the tour for the best guys. The emotionally changeable Latvian, is able to lose back-to-back matches and suddenly beats the top guys or gives them run for their … Continue reading

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