Hit List, April 30, 2012: Sharapova & Rafa rock

Maria is trying to master point construction

SHARAPOVA FINALLY STOPS AZARENKA

In her two previous losses to Victoria Azarenka this season in the Aussie Open and Indian Wells finals, Maria Sharapova had won all of eight games against No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, so coming into the final game of Stuttgart, she was a decided underdog even though all week she had showed a lot of confidence on indoor red clay, had been returning well enough to be threatening on her foes

Milos to take measure of Murray in Miami

Milos will take on Murray

Andy Murray does not need to win Miami to regain the huge amount of confidence he gained from terrific play at the Australian Open and at Dubai, but after his early exit at Indian Wells, he does need to go fairly deep and that means finding a way to fend off Milos Raonic, who is going to come at him hard and often.

Raonic has yet to reach the quarters of Masters Series, and the time has come for him to make a big push at the top 10. He

Taking a Measure of Dubai: Big $, few fans

Novak and the rest of the top 10 are cashing in at Dubai

Year after year now, many of the best players go to Dubai to contest two very big money tournaments. And, year after year, the United Arab Emirates fails to produce any players of note. While I am a big proponent of spreading the gospel of tennis and am willing to keep and open mind upon placing tournaments in various international locales, as it stands to day, I am failing to see the value of continuing to have tournaments in Dubai beyond the massive amounts of moneys paid to the players, and concurrently, the cuts that the tours get off the tournament fees. I do understand that the Dubai Duty Free is a big sponsor off the WTA and it would not be if not for the existence of a Premier level tournament there, but is there going to be any point in the next decade when enough fans actually attend the tournament to say, fill half the seats?

I did not see that last week during Aga Radwanska

Depending on Nalbandian

Ferrer will await Nalbandian if it gets to a 5th rubber.

After a frightful Friday for Argentina when Rafa Nadal crushed Juan Monaco and David Ferrer pulled off perhaps the most significant victory of his career when he stopped Juan Martin Del Potro in a delicious nearly five-hour. five-setter, South America

ATP Finals: Federer & Ferrer on fire

Ferrer is on fire.

Outside of Roger Federer’s usually excellent play indoors, this has been a bizarre ATP World Finals, with two eye-popping results already being registered: Federer’s 6-3, 6-0 destruction of Nadal followed up by David Ferrer’s altogether shocking 6-3, 6-1 defeat of Djokovic. Let’s take nothing away from Federer, who has not lost a match since he came back from some R&R post the U.S. Open and stormed through Basel and Bercy, or Ferrer, who time and time again has proved himself to be worthy and gutsy opponent.

But Nadal losing 6-3, 6-0 to anyone is always a stunning result, even if you believe that Federer is the best player ever. Put it in context: the Spaniard entered the match with a 17-8 head-to-head record against the Swiss and had taken him down the last three times they played. Yes, Federer is a better player indoors but that does not explain how Nadal failed to hold serve once against the Swiss in the second set. If he served well, he should have been able to hold at least three times. If he returned well, he should have been able to grab at least one break. If he could grab Federer by the throat from the baseline and exhaust him with high hopping forehands, he should have been able to win a set. But frankly, Nadal is playing nowhere near as well as he was during the first eight months of the year. His uncle Toni needs to tell him to go out and rip the ball, because his backhand has become as vulnerable as Federer’s once was and he’s not able to will himself through points. If he does down to Jo Tsonga and gets knocked out of the competition before the semis, he is not going to feel great about his season, regardless of what he says in press.

Djokovic’s year has gotten way from him too, but of course nowhere near what has occurred with Nadal, as the Serbian can be very happy that he won three Slams. I do believe him when he says that little matter to him post the U.S Open and I also believe that when he was saying back in Basel that he kind of wishes that the season was over and he could rest now. Does he really want to face Federer in the poor form that he is now? That’s questionable, as how many times in two of out three sets, or let’s say in more accurately in 16 games, has he committed 33 unforced errors this year?

Probably none when he was healthy. Djokovic says that he have to raise his level by 50% to beat Janko Tipsarevic, who gave Tomas Berdych a hell of a fight in a three set loss. That’s a good call even though he owns his fellow Serbians. So if he grabs the win and Berdych does not stomp Ferrer – which is highly doubtful given the Spaniard’s level – then we will likely get a Federer-Djokovic semifinal, which would be perfect, especially given how tough Federer played Djokovic at the US Open. If Federer wants to go into next season feeling like he’s ready to grab his 17th major title at the Aussie Open, wins over Nadal and Djokovic is the recipe that he’s looking for, even if they were indoors in towo out of three sets. The Swiss is doing a much better job of dictating than he did earlier in the year and if he can serve as well and hit his backhand as sweetly in Melbourne as he has London, he really will have a chance at retaking the No. 1 ranking sometime in 2012, which for a 30-year-old, against super elite competition would be an incredible feat.

I’m just amazed at how Ferrer keeps improving given that he’s 29 and is seen as a counterpuncher: his forehand is a huge weapon; he’s now clubbing his first serve into the 120s and is a competent volleyer. Let’s not forget that his win over Djokovic was his fifth, so it’s not likely it was a fluke. I can’t see him winning the title over Federer, but I can definitely see Ferrer besting Nadal or Tsonga and reaching the final…Berdych has played fairly well too, which he should given that his game is fine fit for the thin air of the O2 Arena. He and longtime GF Lucie Safarova have split and he is now dating Czech model Ester Satorova, pictured here…Mardy Fish’s season came to an end in a three-set loss to Federer. Fish also took Nadal to three and played Tsonga tough for a set. It was fine year for the American, but I’m sure he wished he could have come into the ATP finals healthy and in better form. Happy Thanksgiving North America.

 

 

Rafa’s Angst: Nadal’s struggles continue

Rafa is straining.


Notes on a Draw Sheet

Rafael Nadal

Angst in Austin: Spain gives US lesson in confidence

Ferrer played the hero in Nadal's absence

From the reaction of the very international group of knowledgeable fans I chat with on Twitter, I guess I was more surprised than most that Spain downed the U.S. 3-1 in the Davis Cup quarters Austin. Perhaps I

Davis Cup: U.S. looks for a miracle vs. Spain

 

Roddick is praying he'll get a chance to wave the flag again.

The United States Davis Cup team hasn

2011 ROLAND GARROS MEN’S PREDICTIONS

Federer is really an underdog this time.

Djokovic and Nadal Miles Ahead of Field Murray, Federer, DelPo Capable, but Longshots

Two men stand out here, and we all know who they are. If anyone other than Novak Djokovic or Rafa Nadal reaches the final it will be a stunning development unless one of both of them are hurt.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Djokovic has never reached the final at Roland Garros and totally choked against Jurgen Melzer last year, but in so many ways we may well toss out his entire career prior to the 2010 US Open when he really picked up steam and nearly won the tournament, falling to Rafa Nadal in the final. Jump to December 2010 and the man hasn

Nadal marches on, Goerges stuns Wozniacki

While Sunday in Barcelona was business as usual for clay court dominator and No. 1 Rafa Nadal, it wasn