Archives for November 2017

ATP Finals: Calm and cool, Dimitov vs. Sock in semis


In first glance, it looks like that the two-time Grand Slam semifinalist Grigor Dimitov is favored against Jack Sock. But oh no, it’s a tossup. Whilethe Bulgarian has risen into the top 6, he and Sock have played four times, and the American has beaten Dimirov three times. 

Their last battle occurred at Indian Wells in March, with Sock edging Dimitrov 7-6(7) in the third. Sock was playing well then, by changing the tactics game after game. 
In 2015 at Roland Garros, in the first round, Sock nailed Dimitrov — on clay, mind you — in straight sets. Two months later, they faced off again, this time on the hard courts at the Canadian Masters Open, and Sock edged Dimitrov 7-5 in the third. 

The only time Dimitrov has gotten Sock was indoor in Stockholm three years ago.
This season, Dimitrov has been more consistent and calm, while Sock has been up and down.

In the last few months, Sock has lifted his game. Now both of then have been playing better, and finally, showing positive attitudes and smarts. 
American Sock hasn’t been going go for the lines early. He takes his time, especially with his two-handed backhand. When he gets to the net, he can put it away. Still he has a weakness on low volleys; he finds it difficult to get way down and put it in the right spot. 
Dimitrov is very decent at the net and could do well to attack more. No, he is just fine spinning his different shots from his hard forehand, and his complicated one-handed backhand.

For Dimitrov to win, he can’t just wait to see if Sock is playing wildly. It is a huge match, and when he gets an opportunity, Dimitrov has to go for the lines, and fast. 
Coming into here at the beginning of the ATP Finals, Sock was almost stunned that he got in, given that for six months, he was out of it mentally. Then, a few weeks ago, he stopped getting so frustrated, and realized it is OK to miss a shot or two. He began to raise his chip shots. He understood which way to hit the right ball bounces. And he did.

Both of them want to win — badly. They want to reach the final, the last tournament of the year. They will go into the third set, and this time, Sock will beat Dimitrov again, edging him 6-4 in the third. The Americans are finally rising again, and that is a good thing.

Roger Federer vs. David Goffin
Obviously, Federer is a serious favorite. Yes, Belgian Goffin is very steady and this year he became more aggressive and smart, but he has yet to beat the top guys. Goffin will push hard, and he likes to have long rallies. This hard court is not so fast, and not so slow, which helps Goffin a little. Either way, Federer will win in two sets. 

 

Pro tennis: too many male players are injured

 

Fix it, please.

Who knew that they could snag a Grand Slam again, considering that they were aging, and the chances to dominate was very slim.   

But somehow, someway, they had improved their strokes and when they came on court, they were better and smarter. Federer won the Aussie Open and Wimbledon, and Nadal won Roland Garros and the US Open. They were back, and much better. 

Unfortunately, “everybody” is injured. Federer decided not to play on clay, because he though that if he did, he could get hurt again and once he came on grass, he could be very tired or very sore. Nadal played about as well he did on clay — once again, he won Roland Garros, 10 times — and the same thing on the hard courts in the end of the summer in New York. 

But three weeks ago, Nadal’s knees started to get extremely tender, and two days ago, he pulled out at the ATP Finals.

Now, it’s the middle of November. While there are some terrific matches at the ATP Finals played by Grigor Dimitrov and Alexander Zverev, four multiple Grand Slam champs who are not there: Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka. Those four have combined to win 33 majors; but they aren’t in London town. For the fans, that hurts.

It is not just them. Three excellent competitors also became substantially injured this season: Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori and Nick Kyrgios. 

The 36-year-old Federer says that now, you can play longer and you don’t have to retire so early, such as Pete Sampras and Steffi Graf. Perhaps so, but one of the problems is the length of the year; they have to start at the beginning of January and continue until the middle of November. Essentially, in pro tennis, you have to play the entire year. 

Yes, they can relax for a week or two. Players begin to practice in December. Within a second or two, it is time to get back on court, and play the matches. 

This has been going for many years now. If it was up to me, I would reduce the schedule. I know it’s all about the money, making more and more money all the time, but what I see — and this is totally true — lots of people stop watching tennis in the fall. It is too much, too many tournaments, too many days, and eventually, the fans get bored. So they stop.
That is why pro tennis is still struggling.

Hopefully, in 2018, they will fix it, at least a little bit. 

 

ATP Finals: Sock outlasts Cilic; Dimitrov beats Thiem

Jack Sock has been slumping for five months. At times, he was frustrated and very irritable. But, in the last three weeks, he became so consistent, he hung in there and he changed his tactics.

Two days ago, he lost to the phenomenal Roger Federer.

On Tuesday, in London, he overcame Marin Cilic 5-7 6-2 7-6(4). Now the American has a chance to reach the semis at the end of this week.

Today, he was pretty quick, especially when very close to the net. The court isn’t that fast, which is good, considering that the hard courts can be lighting quick in different indoor tournaments. Not in London, this time.

Sock has been sneaking up on the Top 10, finally reaching No. 9 with his Masters 1000 victory in Paris. Since the American Andy Roddick — who won one major at the 2003 US Open — American men have been underachieving. Surprise Wimbledon semifinalist Sam Querrey was the first American man to break the final four Slam glass ceiling since Robby Ginepri in 2005.

Today, there are a good amount of U.S. male players in the top 100. But, winning a Grand Slam, or even making it into the ATP Finals, with only the top eight players at the end of a season, is very difficult.  

That was surprising two weeks ago, because it looked like that once again, the Americans would be unable to consistently beat the big boys. Now, Sock rose up, and has a chance to go deep this week in England.

Yes, obviously, Federer is the favorite, and yes, Sock will have to face the excellent, very young player Alex Zverev on Thursday. Can Sock win and reach the semis? That is up in the air, but finally, Sock is gaining confidence every day. Maybe, every second.

With a win today over Zverev (61 in the final set), Federer has sealed a spot in the semis for the 14th time.

Nadal calls it a year
Without question, Rafa Nadal has had a terrific year. He has won six titles, two of which were Roland Garros (10 titles in Paris) and the US Open. He has improved at the net, and his softer backhand is landing deep and with even more spin.

Nadal was pretty shaky when he lost against David Goffin in three sets He was limping towards at the end.

Nadal ran around, but he was a little slow and he could not crack his famous forehand. His legs were wobbly.

As Federer said, perhaps his good buddy, Nadal, should not have gone to Asia in October. But he did, winning Beijing and then reaching the final at Shanghai, losing against to, believe it or not, Federer.

Then, after that, Nadal was hurting, once again. On Monday, the No. 1 waved goodbye for the rest of the year.

Now, he needs to rest. And heal. In 2018, who knows? Will Nadal be healthy all the time? I doubt it, because over the past four years, the 31-year-old gets hurt pretty frequently. When he is feeling just fine, he gets better all the time, which is a very good thing.

During the afternoon, Grigor Dimitrov overcame Dominic Thiem 6-3 5-7 7-5. Dimitrov rarely goes away, and he mixes it up all the time. He almost lost though, because Thiem jumped on him and he was winning the one-hander versus the same one-hander. But the Bulgarian was more patient and confident. At the very end, young Thiem sort of gagged. Or panicked.

Either way, with Nadal now gone, Dimitrov is favored to reach the semis. He could actually win the entire event. Imagine that.

Vandeweghe soars, US women win the Fed Cup

Photo: Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Federer beats Sock in first ATP Finals match  
American CoCo Vandeweghe is the Fed Cup MVP, winning three matches versus Belarus in the final tie to bring the USA its first Fed Cup since 2000. 

Vandeweghe has had a terrific year, especially in Fed Cup where she won eight points. Facing Belarus in its capitol, Minsk, she pulled out two singles victories and then capped it off with a straight-set, clinching doubles win with Shelby Rogers.

The tie, which many predicted as a sure American victory, was a nail-biter, coming down to the doubles on Sunday.

Five years ago, Vandeweghe was out of it, mentally. Her sole strategy was just cracking her serve. This year the No. 10 was so effective, so driven. Even two years ago, she would become super angry, throw her racket and shake her head. Even now, she can become frustrated, but that is OK, because after a moment or two, the veteran will breath deep and go on to the next point.

It is one thing to win at home, but it’s another to grab it away. Venus Williams didn’t play (of course the new mom, Serena, was out of action) and the injured Madison Keys couldn’t come either. For the home team, Belarusian Victoria Azarenka couldn’t play either, as she is embroiled in a custody battle with her ex, Billy McKeague.

The 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens came to play. However, her losing streak since the US Open continued as she dropped both matches. She is hurt and exhausted.

Belarusians Aryna Sabalenka and Aliaksandra Sasnovich dug in deep and looked fantastic in their two singles victories over Stephens.

In doubles, the outcome was decidedly different. The Americans pushed forward, they returned very well at times, and when they had to, they put many shots at the net. In a sense, it does not matter who is playing, but when they get on court, you have to lock in, don’t become too nervous and hit the right way. At the end, the Americans did. 

By the way, bow-down to the captain, Kathy Rinaldi, who is calm and cool and smart. 

Federer v Sock at the ATP Finals in London 
There you go, Roger Federer won again. This time, he edged American Jack Sock 6-4 7-6(4) in the first round-robin match at the ATP Finals.

Fed has won this tournament many, many times indoors. On the hard courts, whether it be inside or out, he is superior. He mixes it up all the time. His serve is strong and it is difficult to find out which way he is going. His forehand is phenomenal, and for the past 10 months, his backhand has become more powerful. He can lose at times — they all can —  but there are only a few players who can legitimately beat Federer, like Rafa Nadal, who is on the other round-robin bracket. Hopefully, they can play each other towards the end of next week.
 
Sock was happy last week as he won Paris and qualified for the last ATP Finals singles slot. His rise to No. 9 is very surprising, given that from April through September, he did almost nothing. In France, he focused, moved inside the court and, believe it or not, was very effective at the net.

However, Sock needs to improve, obviously. His forehand is gigantic, and his backhand is OK, but he has to rip it crosscourt. Somehow, too, his legs need to be a little bit faster.

Federer should reach the semis, even with Alexander Zverev and Marin Cilic rounding out their bracket. It should be a lot of fun — we hope.

Cronin book recounts Borg v. McEnroe in 1980 Wimbledon final

My book translated into Italian, released this week

Buy Italian book via Amazon
Buy Italian book via IBS
Buy book in Englishborg mcenroe, matt cronin

Six years ago, my book, “Epic: John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg, and the Greatest Tennis Season Ever,” was published in the United States. A number of people have read it over the years. They still do. This week “Borg McEnroe” was published in Italy. Same book but different title and cover.

I am — believe it or not — half Italian. That would be me, Matthew Rezzonico Cronin. My mother, Joan, is 100 percent Italian. On the other side, well, let’s say I am also Irish, from my father, Bill, the former doctor, who passed away 18 years ago.

The thing is that Bill and Joan both loved playing tennis. My mom, Joan, still plays, even as she is an ‘old’ 82-year-old. They both got me into tennis – big time — when I was very young. Many years later, I still am hooked about tennis. Work wise, I have been writing for the past 25 years, traveling, writing/radio/TV etc, and of course, the book, Epic,  — everything. For whatever reason, I am still into tennis, not only following the WTA and ATP folks, but I am always learning new things, on court and off. It is still 2017, and almost every week, somewhere, watching, there will be a fantastic match. Or more.        

For this book’s forward, I asked the former French Open champion Adriano Panatta to be the writer. (Thanks, Adriano!) Here, the Italian remembered how he knew the young Borg and McEnroe were going to be great, eventually. And they did, but it took a little bit of time. Today, he knows them well. They are friends. But, back them, they had some great matches. That’s what tennis is all about.


Forward for “Borg McEnroe”

By One-Time French Open champion Adriano Panatta

The first time I met Bjorn Borg, I thought he was a little bit skinny and he would hesitate. But not for very long, because he grew taller and muscular. He never got tired, and he was incredibly consistent.

A few years later, I saw John McEnoe, running around, twisting it, slicing it, coming into the net and putting it away without hesitation. But on occasion, he would be yelling, all the time.However we eventually became good friends.

When they finally clashed, it was easy to see that they would be the best players out there. They were so driven and so good. Borg and McEnroe never stopped, until Bjorn retired, too early.

However, during the late 1970s, they still had to learn on the courts.

I had to improve every week, too.

In 1976, I won the French Open, beating Borg on clay, possibly the best match I ever played. I always loved clay, sliding, chopping, and when I needed to, I was ready to hit it as hard as I could.

Against Borg, I did a lot of drop shots. I didn’t like to run suddenly, and going fast to the net. He could not match one ball to the other side. It was always very mentally tough..I suffered the opponent and I was able to destroy his game.

In the final, I knew I really had a great chance to win the Grand Slam in Paris and I did, hitting through the lines and never hesitating. It was my best tournament ever.

However, thought time, McEnroe and Borg got better and better. Their serves were so hard and they mixed it up so low. They were so quick, they never got exhausted, they changed the tactics all the time. They could nail their forehands, they were very patient, and they became very intelligent.

I knew Borg better than John, because the Swede was pretty quiet on court, but off the court, he smiled a lot and when I asked him our questions about how to play tennis, he would answer exactly precisely. Bjorn had an ability to track down one ball after another. He almost rattled, he relished playing the big points . . .