Schuettler moves forward (negatively)

Rainer Schuettler [87], the oldest player in the Top 100 (almost 35 years) lost his first round match in Houston to a 15 years younger opponent – Grigor Dimitrov [70] 0-6, 2-6. It’s not the most lopsided defeat in career … Continue reading

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2011 summary (after first quarter)

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Here is a statistical summary of the first quarter of the season. I will make three similar posts: before Wimbledon ’11, at the end of August, and at the end of the season in December. The first quarter of the … Continue reading

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Djokovic’s impressive streak

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Novak Djokovic [2] has the best start of the year of any player since 1986. The Serb has won 24 consecutive matches to start the 2011 year, the last man who won more matches in the first few months of … Continue reading

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Miami – final

(2)Novak Djokovic d. (1)Rafael Nadal    4-6, 6-3, 7-6(4)           [3:21 h]

Two weeks after a final at Indian Wells, Nadal and Djokovic, two best players in the world, met again in the final. Nadal stung first, broke Djokovic’s serve in the 3rd game of the 1st set – the Serb was broken for the first time in Miami after 41 consecutive games held! As it happens quite often, after such a long streak a player loses his serve twice in a row and Djokovic was broken again in the 5th game playing awful tennis. Nadal led 5:1, but Djokovic cut it to 4:5* (30/15) – in that important moment, Nadal obtained an easy point with a service winner and moment later clinched the 1st set. In the 3rd game of the 2nd set they both had their unusual outbursts – D’Joke threw his racquet, Rafa hit with his left fist strings of his own. The Serb needed several ‘deuces’ in that game to build a 3:0 lead. He could produce a double break but Nadal escaped and after two sets they experienced deja vu – exactly the same scoreline like  in the Indian Wells final! This time the 3rd set was different than two weeks ago, it was a typical dogfight, both gave everything, holding service games comfortably. Nadal led 6:5* (30/15), so was only two points away from victory – Djokovic fired a service winner, in the following point he made a forehand mis-hit but the ball landed on the line thus instead of a match point for Nadal, Djokovic had a game point. In the deciding tie-break, Nadal led 2:1 with two serves to come – Djokovic played one of the best rallies of the final then, a point which destroyed the Spaniard physically for a few minutes. The Serb kissed his right fist after a forehand winner down the line, which gave him four match points. Nadal saved two of them, but at the third chance, Djokovic served intelligently on Nadal’s backhand and took advantage of high backhand return, finishing the match with diagonal forehand winner. The match lasted 3 hours 21 minutes which is the longest Masters 1000 “the best of three” final in history. Djokovic has extended his amazing streak to 26 matches won in a row! He becomes the seventh player to win back-to-back titles in the Indian Wells-Miami combo. Here is a list of those players (in parentheses win/loss set record):

1991: Jim Courier (25-5)
1992: Michael Chang (25-5)
1994: Pete Sampras (23-6)
1998: Marcelo Rios (23-2)
2001: Andre Agassi (24-3)
2005: Roger Federer (26-4)
2006: Roger Federer (26-2)
2011: Novak Djokovic (24-3)

Just for the third time, two players met in the finals of  big American tournaments the same year held in March, previously it happened in 1990 (Andre Agassi & Stefan Edberg) and 1995 (Agassi & Pete Sampras), in both cases the players shared titles. Djokovic said about his 22nd title (seven ‘Masters 1000’ titles): “It was such a close match. To win against the No. 1 player of the world in a tie-break in the third set, it’s just incredible. This is one of the best matches I’ve played in a while. I was able to find my rhythm at the end of the first set, and then throughout the whole second and third set I played quite well, especially on my service games.”

Doubles final:
(3)Mahesh Bhupathi/Leander Paes d. (2)Max Mirnyi/Daniel Nestor 6-7(5), 6-2, [10-5]

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Miami – SF

Impressive streak of Novak Djokovic [2] continues. Nothing can interrupt his astonishing concentration, today his semifinal against Mardy Fish [15] was halted after the first four games due to rain  for almost an hour. After the break, Djokovic was even more solid from the baseline than at the beginning of the match and has notched 25th straight victory! Actually the match was a bit more equal than the scoreline was (6-3, 6-1) – Fish had break points in four different games. It was Djokovic’s first match this week in day session, he hasn’t been forced to play at ‘5:5’ in a set in his last 12 sets (starting with the 2nd set of the Indian Wells final), hasn’t been broken yet in Miami (faced 15 break points)!
Roger Federer [3] is good enough to beat many best players in the world, most of them pretty convincingly, but he doesn’t seem to be able to compete anymore with the two best players: Djokovic and Nadal. The Swiss after three painful defeats to Djokovic in three consecutive tournaments, this time suffered a loss to Rafael Nadal [1], in their 23rd mutual confrontation. Federer showed a moment of old magic when after a long rally from the back of the court, played a moon-lob and moment later passed the Spaniard with a cross-court forehand, he got a standing ovation and loud encouragement “Roger! Roger!” from the stands (the 14,638-person crowd), but he had to wait for it a set and a half (*0:3, ‘deuce’ in the 2nd set). Nadal won 6-3, 6-2 in their first non-final match since 2007. After almost identical scoreline (6-3, 6-3) he beat Federer in their first encounter, seven years ago, also in Miami on the same centre court (different color of the court then). Federer: “I had a few mini chances, which against Rafa I was down right away. From then it was an uphill battle. When I did have chances I played poorly and he came up with some good stuff. Off night for me, unfortunately.”

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Miami – QF

Thursday. Gilles Simon [27] got booed leaving the court. The Frenchman played only three games (won 2 points, lost 12)  in ten minutes against  Roger Federer [3] and retired due to a stiff neck. “It’s not the way you want to move on,” Federer said, “But, look, I’ll take those, because they happen quite rarely.” It’s Federer’s 16th career-win (Wessels, Gambill, Henman, Heuberger, Ljubicic, Mantilla, Ferrero, Acasuso, Nieminen, Nalbandian, Soderling, Davydenko, Djokovic, Istomin, Dolgopolov, Simon)  thanks to opponent’s retirement, but he never won a match in these circumstances as quickly as today.
Tomas Berdych [7] had initially led in ‘H2H’ with Rafael Nadal [1] three to one, but since then lost 19 consecutive sets to the Spaniard! In the last quarterfinal of Miami ’11, he lost the 20th set, but at the beginning of the 2nd set managed to break Nadal, who didn’t drop his serve in the first three rounds. Nadal after losing the first three games of the 2nd set required treatment (right shoulder) and came back on court full fit, Berdych was able to hold his serve  to the end of the set though, and broke an awful streak of losing sets to his one year younger rival. In the 1st game of the 3rd set, Berdych had a triple break point, Nadal responded in impressive style: service winner, three aces in a row, forehand stop-volley! The Czech was competitive until the 8th game, Nadal broke then his serve to ’15’ and served out the victory in the following game to ‘love’. Nadal after a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 win said about his physical problems: “Really strange. I was thinking too much about the arm, and I lost a little bit the concentration.”
Wednesday. In the first meeting in four years between Mardy Fish [15] and David “Pics” Ferrer [6], prevailed the American mixing things up very well and keeping the Spaniard off balance. Fish was *4:5 (15-30) in the 1st set when delivered great kick-serve, it was a turning point in the match, Ferrer since then won only 2 games, losing 9; he was ’30-15′ up in three consecutive games at the end of the 1st set… Fish with his 7-5, 6-2 victory, becomes the No. 1 in the United States next Monday. “It’s a testament to Mardy’s commitment in the last couple years to become the best player he can be, so I couldn’t be happier for him and prouder of what he’s done. I think it is a milestone,” said John McEnroe.
In the second quarterfinal Novak Djokovic [2] avenged his defeat to Kevin Anderson [40] on the same court three years ago, it was the only match of these two players, and the biggest upset of the Miami 2008 edition. Djokovic won 6-4, 6-2 last night, but credit to the South African player for very good performance. Djokovic has extended his winning streak to 24, but in the last four weeks he had tougher matches only against Nadal and Federer. “In the second set I found that momentum, but I went through situations where I faced couple of breakpoints in the first and second set, and I saved them,” said Djokovic, he added about his semifinal opponent, Mardy Fish: “He’s been playing some really good tennis this week, beating high-ranked players, quality players. Today he looked really confident on the court. If he serves well, then he can really beat anybody, I think.”

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Miami – 4R

The three best players again won their matches without any troubles (it is boring, isn’t?), none of them lost four games in a set. Roger Federer‘s match with Olivier Rochus (6-3, 6-1) started after midnight at 12:37, in their first encounter six years ago, also in Miami, Federer won after identical scoreline, the difference – then needed 72 minutes, this time 52. They began very late due to bad weather and long matches on Centre Court (Maria Sharapova needed 3:28 to win her match for instance…) A meeting between Tomas Berdych and Florian Mayer was interrupted by rain after the 1st set. Berdych won 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 being two points away from defeat five times at *5:6 in the decisive set. In the most interesting match of the day, Mardy Fish [15] struggled past Juan Martin del Potro after very long two-setter 7-5, 7-6 (2 hours 25 minutes). The Argentinian had his chances in both sets, squandered 5 mini-set points at 4:4 in the 1st set, led 30-0 on Fish’s serve at 4:4 in the 2nd set. The end of the match was thrilling, Fish led 5:0 in the tie-break and twisted a bit his right ankle making a forehand winner to get a triple match point. Del Potro quickly fought off two match points with service winners but Fish responded with a service winner too. Fish has had an excellent tie-break record since Queens Club 2008, 24-7 (.774); before that tournament he had had considerably negative career tie-break record! “It was pretty high quality tennis for the better part of it, I think. I’m sure he came off thinking he played pretty well. And I played great,” said Fish, who indeed was excellent from the back of the court but in the 1st set made a couple ridiculous errors at the net, uncharacteristic for himself. The 29-year-old Fish will be the highest ranked American next Monday if he beats David Ferrer in the quarterfinals, overtaking Andy Roddick and obtaining the highest ATP position in career – “You just kind of feel like coming through with Andy and the career that he’s put together, you really feel like it would probably be pretty tough to still feel like I was the No. 1 American.” The only unseeded player in the quarterfinals, Kevin Anderson [40] – has signed himself for the first time in the last 8 of such a big event. The South-African player in the battle of two giants (Anderson – 203 cm, John Isner – 206 cm) took a revenge for three straight defeats. Anderson rallied from a 0:3 deficit in the 3rd set of his second round clash with Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Anderson prevailed 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.

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Miami – 3R

Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer comfortably won their third round matches, especially Djokovic, who destroyed again his opponent (James Blake). The Serb has the fourth best start of a year in the Open era, only Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe (twice) won more consecutive matches  opening a new season. Very likely the three best players in the world will advance to the semifinals, last week the “trinity” appeared in the last four at Indian Wells. Juan Martin del Potro accompanied them and there is a possibility he will join them in Miami too. In the third round Del Potro played a perfect match against No. 4 Robin Soderling. The Argentinian won 6-3, 6-2 serving 12 aces (never forced to play ‘deuce’ in nine service games) and outplaying his much more higher ranked opponent in every department of the game. Del Potro said: “I served much better than in the Kohlschreiber match, and that’s what I need if I want beat Top 10 players.” Six unseeded players reached the fourth round (three at Indian Wells), among them the biggest surprises produced Marcel Granollers [55] and Olivier Rochus [89] who have won three consecutive matches in three sets. Granollers railled from a *3:5 deficit in the 3rd set against Michael Llodra. The Frenchman couldn’t deal with tough conditions (heat, high humidity), was barely moving on the court in the last four games, won  just 4 points, lost 16. The shortest player on the tour, Rochus made the biggest upset in Miami last year eliminating Djokovic. This year, the Belgian becomes the first qualifier to reach the last 16  since Guillermo Canas in 2007 (the Argentine reached the final then). In the first round Rochus was one game away from losing to Blazs Kavcic, after that he stunned two seeded guys: Marcos Baghdatis and Mikhail Youzhny. Janko Tipsarevic‘s opponents broke their racquets playing against him in the last two rounds. In the second round, usually very calm Marin Cilic smashed his racquet in impressive style at 2:4 in the 2nd set tie-break, followed by Philipp Petzschner, who broke the other one with help of his thigh :)
A match between Alexandr Dolgopolov [23] and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga [16] lasted two days because on Monday was suspended due to rain at 3:2 in the 3rd set for the Ukrainian. On Tuesday, he saved a triple mini-match point at 4:4 and won 6-7, 6-4, 7-5 notching the second victory in ’11 over the Frenchman (the previous one at the Australian Open in five sets).

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Timeline

I have added a new page today: T-line________ All the most interesting events of the Open era (major titles, records, rises and falls…) have been included there. The choice of photos isn’t accidental, I consider these 17 players depicted in photos (Laver, Newcombe, Connors, Vilas, Borg, McEnroe, Lendl, Becker, Wilander, Edberg, Courier, Sampras, Agassi, Kuerten, Hewitt, Federer, Nadal) as the most important in the last 43 years :)
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Miami – 2R

Andy Murray‘s [5] slump continues severely. The Brit lost at Indian Wells to No. 143 in the world (Donald Young), in Miami was beaten 1-6, 5-7 by Alex Bogomolov [118] – a player who advanced only once to the Top 100 for just three weeks seven years ago… “In practice I have been competing well, especially this week, chasing everything down, playing a lot of good points and feeling good. Then in the matches I haven’t been able to get it going at all” complained Murray who has lost the last 9 sets he played – the worst streak in his professional career! Murray’s namesake – Roddick (No 8, the defending champion) was out-aced and outplayed by Pablo Cuevas [67]. Andy’s Murray and Roddick found themselves among  14 seeded players eliminated in the second round, twice more than at Indian Wells at the same stage of tournament!
Juan Martin del Potro and Philipp Kohlschreiber [32] just one week after tight two-setter at Indian Wells, met again to play this time an entertaining & tight three-set match which lasted 3 hours 3 minutes. The German was two points away from advancing to the next round, leading 5:4 (30-15) in the 3rd set, but Del Potro survived capturing the last three games, fought off two break points in the last game to clinch the fourth straight victory over the German 6-7, 6-4, 7-5. A match between Del Potro and Robin Soderling [4] looks like the most interesting third round prospect. The Swede was also close to lose his three-setter to Ivan Dodig, trailing *0:3 (30-40), won 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.
James Blake in the first round won his first main level match being on verge of defeat in two sets, in the second round was two points away from losing to Thomaz Bellucci [30]. Blake prevailed 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(6) winning for the first time in career two matches in the final set tie-breaks! Supposedly in the third round his run is going to the end because he faces Novak Djokovic [2]. The Serb keeps his extraordinary form winning again ‘6-0, 6-1’ (with the exact same scoreline he won two matches in his previous tournament at Indian Wells). This time a victim was Denis Istomin [49] whom Djokovic defeated with similar ease (6-1, 6-1, 6-2) in their first encounter, last year at the Australian Open. Djokovic appeared on the court in a mask and T-Shirt with Japanese flag as a sign of supporting Japan – this country suffered tsunami on March 11, 2011, causing over 9,000 deaths (last week at Indian Wells, Djokovic was playing with bandage on his left knee with handwritten “Support Japan”). The following day, Djokovic played the first round in doubles, teaming up for the first time with Andy Murray, and made miracles in defense at 7:5* in the super tie-break, but the Brit hasn’t been in the winning mood lately and the Serb-British duo lost to Stakhovsky/Youzhny 7-5, 3-6, [8-10].

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