The men’s grade, from AO: Djokovic was way up, Rafa way down

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The 2006 Australian Open


Novak Djokovic

The No. 1 came in as a heavy favorite at the AO and with the exception against Gilles Simon in the fourth round, when he needed to push in the fifth set, he absolutely nailed against three fine folks: Kei Nishikori, Roger Federer and Andy Murray. There are no holes. He is relentless, he can smack side-to-side and the minute he can go forward, he puts it away.

He owns 11 Grand Slams now, and given that he has won four out of the last five majors, in 2016, he will be seriously driven to win his first crown at Roland Garros. If he manages that, he will have a legitimate shot to win all four Slams. If he does, he’d be tied with Pete Sampras with 14 Slams. Wow!


Milos Raonic

The Canadian has improved so much in the past month: his backhand, his return, his aggression and his volley. Given that his huge serve and massive forehands, he was very close of reaching the final. He out-punched Stan Wawrinka, he smoked Gael Monfils and in the semis against Andy Murray, he was up two sets to one, but he hurt himself and then he dropped significantly, losing in five sets. Before the year started the 25-year-old said he will win a major this year. I bet he is right.


Andy Murray

Even though Murray has lost four times against Djokovic in the Aussie Open finals, still, he fought hard and there were times when he looked pretty close. Still, his serve has improved a little bit and he is very comfortable at the net. He can use tactics to his advantage and he understands what he has to do. However, Djokovic is flat-out better than he is, especially with his forehand and maybe his famous backhand, too. Murray has to realize that.

Roger Federer

The all-time great (well, very close, at least) played beautiful tennis until he faced Djokovic, who destroyed him for the first two sets, battled in the third set, and in the fourth set he couldn’t figure it out. In some ways the 34-year-old has improved in the last couple of years, but otherwise he is declining physical. It happens to every one eventually.

Gilles Simon

When the Frenchman is locked in, he is incredibly consistent and smart, dragging Djokovic into their fifth set. He played terrific, until the end, when he backed off.


Tomas Berdych

The Czech scored two significant wins over Nick Kyrgios and Robert Bautista Agut and he looked very driven, but against Federer, he didn’t know which way to go. If he is ever going to reach a Grand Slam final again, he must find some more strengths and reduced mistakes.

Kei Nishikori

Yes, Nishikori played fairly well until he reached quarters, smacking Jo Tsonga. But, against Djokovic, it was very clear that he has a lot of work to do if he ever is going to wins a major title some day.

Bernard Tomic

The Aussie was very controlled in the first three matches, and he was somewhat close against Murray, but he lost in three sets. He has always played pretty well in Australia, but for the rest of the year? Hmmm. He has to prove it.

David Goffin

The Belgian danced around when he bested the rising Dominic Thiem in four sets. However, Federer tore him apart.

Robert Bautista Agut

Nice to see the veteran Spaniard to reach the fourth round for the first time. Does he actually like the hard courts now?

Jo Tsonga

Jo appears ready to go once again as he was hurt during the fall. He reached the fourth round before Nishikori dusted him, but at least he can reach the top 5 again. However, the clock is ticking.

Gael Monfils

Like Tsonga, he is always hurt, but at least he reached the quarters, beating the Russian Andrey Kuznetov before Raonic hit the heck out of him.

David Ferrer

Good for the Spaniard, who reached the quarter once again, needing three hours before he fell against Murray. He always tries, but maybe the 33-year-old can serve and volley once in a while?


Stan Wawrinka

Coming in, it was Stan the Man who had a legitimate chance to win the tournament again. However, he was a bit sick and, against Raonic, he was a little off. Next year.

Nick Kyrgios

The 20-year-old won a couple matches and, at times, he was very flashy and skillful when he fell in four sets versus Berdych. Give him more time.

Grigor Dimitrov

Some think that the Bulgarian didn’t play well in Australia, but that is wrong as he almost won Sydney. But, he lost in Brisbane and the AO against Federer, in two fairly tight matches. Good enough for now.

John Isner

Big John scored a huge win over Feliciano Lopez who has always gave him a lot of trouble, but he could not figure out what to do when he faced Ferrer in the fourth round. Ranked No. 11, he has to continue to improve significantly if he is ever going to reach the top 5.


Steve Johnson

The USC standout has improved every year and reached the third round, so maybe soon he can reach the second week this season.


Fernando Verdasco

There is no doubt that Verdasco played amazingly well to upset Rafa Nadal in five sets in the first round. However, he lost in the next round, which mean he was unable to go deep at all.

Jack Sock

The rising Sock came through in the first round against the very good 18-year-old Taylor Fritz in five sets, but then he went down against Lukas Rosol in the second round. Yes, he had been sick, but he had a really chance to go deep. Next time?


Marin Cilic

The 2014 US Open champion have said that he can reach the top 5 in 2016. He didn’t reach in the second week. I am waiting …


Rafael Nadal

It is impossible to know why he lost in the first round against Verdasco, given since October he had beat everyone with the exception of Djokovic. He wasn’t aggressive enough. He simply cannot do that anymore or he will never win another Slam.

Benoit Paire

The Frenchman had a fine 2015, but then he was totally shocked against the young American Noah Rubin.

Federer says Big 4 still there; admires Lleyton Hewitt



AUSTRALIAN OPEN, January 20, 2016 – Admittedly, Novak Djokovic had a tremendous year in 2015. He won 11 titles, including three majors, grabbing the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. He beat the rest of the so-called Big Boy-plus 1: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka.

Federer has won 17 Grand Slams and Nadal has won 14 majors. Djokovic ‘only’ has won 10 Grand Slams. Both Murray and Wawrinka have won two Grand Slams, which is pretty good, too. Some think that the Big 4 plus 1 might have begun to disappear because in 2015, no one could handle Djokovic for the most part.

However, Federer said that for sure Djokovic had a tremendous year, but that doesn’t mean that the other elite competitors are getting blown out all of the time. Recall that in 2004, Federer won three Slams. In 2010, Nadal won three majors that year, too. Neither of then went undefeated. So while everyone is bowing down for Djokovic, he did lose a few contests

“If you’re looking at his season, he was the most dominant player by far last year,” said Federer, who took out Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-3 7-5 6-1 in the second round. “Then, if you look at just who won the Slams and the Masters 1000s, doesn’t hold truth, because Stan won the French [he beat Djokovic in the final]. Nobody else won a Slam other than him and Novak. So it completely depends on how you look at it. Who’s had the most success? The top five guys really, with Stan, Murray, myself, Novak and Rafa.

“Now the rankings are back to more normal again after Rafa’s worked his way back up. I don’t think Rafa, myself, we personally look at the rankings very much, check it out all the time, care too much, to be quite honest, after being world No. 1. I understand some people do. It’s helpful in the seedings at times. But for us to lose quarter, semis, finals, it doesn’t matter, it’s still a loss, because we’re looking at higher goals, Rafa and myself. Same as Novak. I still think the same guys are playing very well. But Novak deserves like a little star next to his name right now because he’s been doing extremely well. Same for Stan really. Hasn’t been said, he’s won Slams the last couple seasons [he won the 2014 Australian Open and the 2015 French Open] and he’s going into a third season where he’s maybe going to win a Slam.”

Federer is now 34 years old, just like the Aussie Lleyton Hewitt, who will retire after the tournament is over. They began playing each other in 1998, when they were still juniors. Within a flash, Hewitt was given a wild card in his own town, Adelaide, and he won the title. Federer and Hewitt were supposed to play doubles in the juniors at the Australian Open, but instead, Hewitt was given another wild card, this time in the pros.

“He dumped me,” Federer said with a laugh.

For the next five years, Hewitt pretty much had him, winning seven contests and losing two matches. The small yet feisty Aussie beat Federer on carpet, grass and hard courts. But, by 2004, Federer had risen. He had finally figured him out. They had yet to face off in the majors, but this time, Federer and Hewitt went at each other in the Australian Open and Wimbledon. Federer was completely in control. He understood exactly how he should play Hewitt. The Swiss beat the Aussie 15 matches in a row, until 2010, when Hewitt finally upset him on grass in Halle. In 2014, Hewitt was absolutely thrilled, upending Federer in the final in Brisbane. The only time they had played against each other in Australia was in the Davis Cup in 2003, when the two-time Grand Slam champion Hewitt came back down two sets on grass. Both of them still clearly recalls what occurred.

It would be stunning if they can meet in the final of the 2016 Australian Open. They are in opposite draws and Hewitt hasn’t played the singles since the US Open.

But both have said they will watch each other’s matches during the tournament. They admire each other quite well.

“We always got along well. It was sometimes feisty on the court, but it was always respectful,” Federer said. “I always admired his work ethic, his on-court fighting spirit, even though it annoyed me sometimes because in the beginning it was more crazy than now. Until I found myself as well on the court, took me a while, but it was more because of me, not because of him, I’d say. Lleyton made me figure out my game and made me definitely a better player. I enjoyed the battles with him. I wish him well here.”


Hewitt will face David Ferrer in the second round on Rod Laver. The Aussie is the underdog, but if he is healthy, they can exchange long rallies all night long.

Federer will go up against Grigor Dimitrov in the third round. The two just played in Brisbane, with Federer playing a little smart and he won it in three tight sets. The only way that Dimitrov can win is to move forward, takes some risks and he cannot back off. The Bulgarian looks a little bit better after a tough year. Last week in Sydney, he reached the final, he held a match point versus Victor Troicki, he came up the net, he had an easy forehand down the line and he dumped it. He lost and he was crushed. Can he stun Federer? Possibly, but if he has a match-point, he cannot hesitate.

Here are two excellent third-round matches: Tomas Berdych vs. Nick Kyrgios and David Goffin vs. Dominic Thiem.

The Australian Open 2016 Draw: Can anyone upset Djokovic?





Novak Djokovic is a heavy favorite, essentially dominating the hard courts. He has won the Aussie Open five times, having won in 2015 over Andy Murray in the final. Last year on the hard courts outdoors, he also won Indian Wells, Miami, the US Open, Beijing and Shanghai. Last week, he won Doha, destroying Rafa Nadal. Can anyone touch him? Probably not, but eventually, everyone can lose.

Djokovic will face the rising Hyeon Chung in the first round, which could be interesting, but Novak has much more experience. He should face Ivan Dodig, who can grind you, but he is simply stronger. He should thrash Andreas Seppi in R3, and in the R4, throw in Gilles Simon, who can be cagey, but he can’t out hit him. In the quarters, he will likely face Kei Nishikori, but the Japanese could go down against Benoit Paire, who beat him Tokyo. Jo Tsonga is around ,but he hasn’t done anything lately. Djokovic will clash against Nishikori and he realizes that if he wants to win a major for the first time, he really has to go for it and make sure not to get hurt. Djokovic will outlast him in five dramatic sets.

SEMIFINAL: Djokovic.


Nishikori vs. Philip Kohlschreiber with the German loves to slug.


Roger Federer could face Grigor Dimitrov in the 3rd round, which it will certainly be a tremendous match, assuming that they get there. The Swiss loves variety and cialis veritable he will get that, likely playing Alexandr Dolgopolov in R2. Dolgopolov loves to slice and mix it up, but Federer has a bigger forehand and serve. Then he should play Dimitrov, who he beat him in Brisbane in 3 tough sets. The Bulgarian is improving once again and without a doubt, he doesn’t back off at all. However, Federer knows how to attack him and when he needs to back off. In the fifth set, Federer will know which way to go. In the fourth round, he will have to face another youngest, Dominic Thiem, whom he out stroked him in Brisbane. It is possible that the flashy David Goffin will get there, but while Thiem can sit way back in the court, he can rip his strokes. This time, the Austria will grab a set, but Federer will get into the quarters.

Who will face him in the quarters? The controversial Nick Kyrgios can go off, but he is an excellent young player. Kyrgios doesn’t have a coach, but somebody must be talking to him during the AO, perhaps with the soon-to-retire Lleyton Hewitt? The super-powerful Kyrgios will overpower Pablo Carreno Busta, then Pablo Cuevas, and then knock out No. 6 Tomas Berdych. Then Kyrgios will face the 2014 US Open champ Marin Cilic, which will be very physically. The fans will be going crazy, cheering for Kyrgios, who will out-stroke him in five sets.

Can the 21 year old stun Federer? Yup. Even though Kyrgios didn’t play particularly well in the fall, and he hasn’t played a match in the ATP this year (even though he played in an exo at the Hopman Cup), he loves to battle at the Slams. He can crush his forehand and backhand, he has a huge serve, he can charge the net, and he can mix it up. Obviously, the 17-time Grand Slam champion Federer is still a better player than he is, but he is slightly aging and in three out of five sets, he can slip down.


GREAT FIRST ROUND: Thiem vs. Leonardo Mayer. The Argentine has slumped a bit, but he commander viagra generique youtube can drag Thiem all over the place.



Without a doubt, this is the most enticing quarter. There are a slew of big names that can reach the semis, including Stan Wawrinka, Rafa Nadal, Milos Raonic, Kevin Anderson, Gael Monfils and Jack Sock.

The No. 4 Wawrinka is slightly leading, as he won the 2014 AO [he beat Djokovic and Nadal] and last year, he reached the semifinal, going down to Novak. The fiery Wawrinka has much improved at the majors of the past two years. But still, he can be vulnerable. Sock has reached the final in New Zealand, and at this point, the American is ready to jump. He will stun Wawrinka in the third round, but it’s Raonic who is ready to go super deep: the Canadian will nail serve after serve and take down Sock in the Round of 16.

Then what? The 14-time Grand Slam viagra sans ordonnance Nadal is fighting hard, even though he can’t figure out Djokovic. Nadal has to go up against Fernando Verdasco in the first time, and while Rafa knows him well, in 2009, they faced off in the semifinal at the AO and the two bangers played over 4 hours. Nadal out-lasted Verdasco, and then he won the tournament, beating Federer.

Can he do it again? I can’t see it, but he should beat Verdasco, knock down Jeremy Chardy in the third round, and in the fourth round, he will club Anderson – assuming that Kevin had overcame the flashy Monfils.

But in the quarters, assuming Raonic is healthy, that he will negate Nadal in four sets. His time is come.



Chardy vs. Ernests Gulbis: because Gulbis is always crazy – and some times, a whole lot of fun


Andy says that he badly wants to win an AO for the first time, losing four times in the finals. He certainly has a chance, but he has to keep his head in the game. In the first time, he will face the super tall and rising 18-year-old Alexander Zverev. Murray will win, but the German will come out swinging. He should control Sam Groth in the second round, and he will out-think Joao Sousa, but in the fourth rounding, it’s anybody’s guess. He should face Bernard Tomic, who has been playing better over the past 13 months, but he should not have retired on Friday at Sydney because he wants to make sure that he is totally healthy in AO. Tomic loves to mix it up, and he can crack the ball. Plus, at least on court, he is much smarter. But so is Murray, who knows how to attack him and mix it up. The Britain will take him down in four sets,

Who will meet Murray in the quarters? David Ferrer, who just loss against Sock and is aging. Maybe the wily Feliciano Lopez, the former USC standout Steve Johnson, or the huge-server John Isner? It will be Isner, who has been way overdo at the AO, losing some very tough losses over the year. Isner will get there, but once he gets on court against Murray, he tends to lose his head. Murray will get through once again.

SEMIFINAL: Andy Murray

GREAT FIRST ROUND: Lleyton Hewitt vs. James Duckworth. The former No. 1 Hewitt will retire at the end of the tournament. What better to go out on the bright lights at Rod Laver Stadium.



Top 32: Djokovic was near perfect; Murray consistent, must get better

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No. 4

Stan Wawrinka

In some ways, it’s all about the majors, isn’t it? At the Aussie Open, the then defending champion had reached the semifinal against Novak Djokovic who he had beaten him last year in five classic sets. He was ready to do it again, as in 2015, he had won the fourth set. Wawrinka could fly away in the fifth set. But instead, he quickly crashed and he lost 6-0 in the fifth. Bizarre-o.

Emotionally, Wawrinka can get down on himself. He is a terrific player, but on court, he can drop down into the basement. In February, he won Rotterdam, but then he slipped, for nearly three months. Somehow though, he walked on to Roland Garros, he breathed again and he began to rip the ball, knocking out Gilles Simon, Roger Federer, Jo Tsonga and Djokovic in the final in four sets. He hit winner after winner, jumping high, and smoking his powerful one-handed backhand. Once again, he had risen and he truly believed that he could out-slug anyone and that he did.

The 30-year-old Wawrinka has won two Grand Slams, and given that his conditioning has improved a lot over the past three years (credit to his coach, Magnus Norman) that he will have a legitimate chance to win another one in 2016. Yes, as he admits, he can go in and out, and he could have been calmer when he went down against Richard Gasquet at Wimbledon (9-7 in the fifth in the quarters), and he could have woken up against his good buddy Federer at the US Open. He looked pretty good during the fall, winning Tokyo, but he lost against Rafa Nadal, Djokovic, and Federer.

Will Wawrinka be more consistent, all year long? That is doubtful, but when he begins to lock in, he can run past anyone.

No. 3

Roger Federer

Five years ago, if the great Federer was unable to win a major, then he would have been heavily criticized. Not now though, as he is 34 years old, and so few fantastic competitors were able to reach two Grand Slam finals, which in a sense, he had a standout season.

Yes, he struggled a bit, being shocked by Andreas Seppi at the Australian Open and Stan Wawrinka overwhelmed him at Roland Garros. However, he knocked out Andy Murray at Wimbledon in the semis, and against Wawrinka, he out-stroked him in the semis of the US Open. Those were gigantic contests. Without a doubt, Djokovic is better than he is now, but in both finals at Wimbledon and the US Open, Federer had chances and if his backhand was more consistent and if he was more forceful returning his serves, he might have been able to win at least one of those matches. ‘Rog’ would have raised a trophy and would have had 18 Grand Slams. Imagine that.

However, Federer only has won 17 Grand Slams (a record by the men in singles) and that is just fine. He was close enough, he will have a chance to do it again in 2016.

Here’s reality though: He has slowed down just a little bit and his serve is excellent, but he cannot overpower the big boys. The right-hander still has the quickest, most powerful and most accurate forehand of all time. It is almost not even close [except with the 14-time champ Pete Sampras]. The amount of his variety is phenomenal, and over the past two years or so, he improved a lot at the net, thanks to his now ex-coach, Stefan Edberg, who loved to charge the net all the time. Federer has an amazing lob, overhead and drop shot.

The Swiss says that he will try to add some new tactics in 2016. He can become impatient, and he can fall off when he isn’t gripping the racket correctly.

Federer won six titles in 2015, which is pretty good. In 2016, he will start at Brisbane (he won last year). Will he be trying a few new tricks? I bet he will, winning or losing. I doubt that Federer will win another major, but he could if he is the right draw and he is feeling it every minute. One way or another, watching Federer will put together another dramatic season.

No. 2

Andy Murray

Props to Murray for helping Great Britain to win the Davis Cup, going undefeated at the singles and the doubles. Heck, if Andy decided to play doubles at the Grand Slam with his lefty brother Jamie, they could win a slew of crowns. But for now it’s all about the singles and in 2015, he was pretty good, but not spectacular.

Sure, he played terrific in winning the ATP Masters 1000 Madrid and Montreal, and he won the ATP 250 at Munich on clay, and the ATP 500 at London/Queens on grass. He scored a win over Nadal in Madrid, and he upset Djokovic at Montreal. But…overall, he lost against Djokovic six times this season, including at the Aussie Open final and Roland Garros; he lost twice against Federer in the semis at Wimbledon and Cincy; and he went down against Nadal in the ATP Finals round robin. Oh, and let’s not forget that the two-time Grand Slam Murray lost to Wawrinka in the ATP Finals in a round robin.

At the very least, Murray was pretty consistent, which is why he is ranked No. 2. He is very smart and he has a lot of variety, which is why he schools the young players.

However, if Murray wants to win more majors then he has to pick it up. His backhand is incredibly steady and powerful, he can crack it wherever he wants to. His forehand is a little stiff, and he needs to loosen it up and he needs to go down the line more. His first serve has improved tremendously over the years, but his second serve can be weak. Murray can chip back his returns, anytime time, anywhere, and he can softly throw in drop shots. Murray is super solid, and he is very efficient at the net, when he wants to come in, which isn’t very often.

He is 28 years old and in the next four years or so, he will have a legitimate chance to win a few more majors, but in order to do so, he has to take more risks, and he has to move forward all the time against the other Big Boys. In 2016, will he be able to disturb Djokovic and out-hit him? We may find out shortly at the Aussie Open final once again.

No. 1

Novak Djokovic

Did the Serbian put together the best season ever? No, not quite, but he was darn close, winning the Australian Open, reaching the final at Roland Garros, winning Wimbledon and the US Open. And let’s not forget that he also won a series of ATP Masters 1000: Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo, Rome, Shanghai and Paris. Did we forget that at the end of the year he also won the ATP World Tour Finals. Throw in Beijing on an ATP 500, and the 28-year-old had won 11 titles. Wow. It’s not like he put together a bunch of small events, but he decided that he could beat down all the best competitors. He overcame Federer at Wimbledon and the US Open finals when the great Swiss tried to mix him up, fool him, somehow out-hit him. He over-powered Murray in the Australian Open final, when he was stronger, faster and more concentrated. He was steadier and more aggressive against Nadal – four times in 2015 mind you – upending the Spaniard for the first time ever at Roland Garros. And yes, Wawrinka shocked him in the Roland Garros final, when the Swiss was in a zone and he became nervous and he couldn’t get over it.

But so what? For a few days afterward, he was down on himself. He has yet to win Roland Garros on clay, and maybe he never will, but he was very close and when he reaches the finals once again, he can lift up his chin, stare right at has foes, scream, and touch the lines like he will never miss them.

Djokovic has won 10 Grand Slam titles , which is terrific, but he still has work ahead. Federer has won 17 Grand Slam titles, and Nadal owns 14 Grand Slams, so in order to catch them, he will have to continue improve and stay healthy, just like he has since 2011, when he stepped up, he stopped pushing the ball and he began to truly believe in himself.

Look at how much better he has become: back in 2008, when he won his first major at the Australian Open, he was super quick and steady, but his forehand wasn’t very forceful, his serve was a bit weak, and he didn’t love to coming to the net. But he kept on working and now, he his is nearly perfect. His two-handed backhand has always been legendary, his return is phenomenal, knocking massive serves that he can poke very deep; he is swinging his forehand down the line and crosscourt whether its flat or heavy topspin; and he is very efficient at the net. We all know that he never gets tired, he never gets hurt, and even when he isn’t playing well, he manages to find a way.

Back in 1969, Rod Laver won all four Grand Slams. Since then, none of the males have been able to do that, but a few have been to win three majors in a year such as Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. Can the Serbian do it in 2016? Maybe, because mentally he has shake it off in Paris before he raises the trophy, but at the very least he will be a significant favorite at the Aussie Open, which he has won five times. In order to beat Djokovic, you have to wear him down, somehow, someway. Exactly how, every one has to significantly improve to even get close to him. Right now, Djokovic is domination.

‘He is able to play with no mistakes ‘ Djokovic beat Nadal in semis

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ATP World Tour Finals – When Novak Djokovic is smoking his first serve, twisting around, hitting the lines, aiming wherever he wanted to do go, to be able to beat him these days, he is nearly untouchable.

On Saturday, Djokovic out-hit him and bested Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-3 to reach the final. Once the rallies began, the Spaniard was in there, but he couldn’t shake him. Not only was he unable to read his serve – try 0/0 on break points – but also he couldn’t knock him back for the most part.

Very few people are willing to go toe-to-toe against Nadal’s ferocious forehand, but Djokovic was just fine there. The righty moves quickly forward with his two-handed backhand and made sure that the lefty Nadal’s heavy forehand doesn’t go way up past his shoulder. Djokovic reads the ball coming up fast and he hits it before it goes into the sky. Without a doubt, it is impossible to be on top of every single shot against the 14-time Grand Slam Nadal, but he was more than good enough, and in reality, he was better on every turn.

How about Djokovic when he was cracking his first serve: try 25/28 points won on his first serves. The Serbian nailed nine forehand winners, and the Spaniard hit four forehand winners. Djokovic wailed nine backhands, while Nadal’s weaker backhand only had one winner.

Djokovic hit three incredible rolling lobs after Nadal was right on the top of the net and couldn’t jump high enough. In the last game, Djokovic could sense that he should jump on him now. He attacked immediately, going down the line with a backhand and then a forehand. It was over, the fourth time that Djokovic has beaten him this year, at the ATP Masters 1000 Monte Carlo, Roland Garros, Beijing and now the ATP World Tour Finals. The Serbian has won all nine sets.

Now, head to head, they are tied up 23-23. It’s the first time that the 28- year-old Djokovic and the 30-year old Nadal are tied. Nadal beat him back in 2006 at Roland Garros. It took a very long time to catch up.

“Obviously after 46 matches and 10 years of professional tennis, I managed to tie my head-to-head score with Nadal,” Djokovic said. “It took a lot of time. I think I was a few levels under him at the beginning of my career when I started playing professional tennis. Nadal was alongside Federer dominating the tour. I just couldn’t really do much against him. But because we played so many times I had a chance to really shorten the gap, and now even the score.”

Nadal has been better at the end of this year. He was hurt during the second half in 2014, and he returned in 2015, but he wasn’t 100 percent. But gradually, he became slightly more confident. He was unable to win any of the majors or the ATP 1000s, but he did beat Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray and David Ferrer at the ATP World Tour Finals. Pretty close, but no cigar. In fact against Djokovic, he is a long way off.

“Hitting amazing. Well, the return always amazing,” Nadal said of Djokovic. “This year he serving great, I think. And then he is able to play with no mistakes and changing directions so easy, playing so, so long. He’s doing everything good. He was better than me and he deserved to do what he did during the whole season. He played just fantastic. When somebody’s doing like this, just the only thing I can do is congratulate him.”

Nadal will go home in Mallorca. It’s a long time that he was able to play from January to November. At the very least, he can practice every day and when he arrives at Australia Open, maybe he will be closer against Djokovic.

“My body is healthy, is strong. I feel good physically,” Nadal said. “I am able to practice a lot. I am able to compete great in long matches, too.
Today I am not worried about my body. I was much more worried when I started this season than how I am today. I played the full season with not many problems. I finished the season healthy, with good health.

That’s so important for me to keep practicing, have confidence in my body, my movements, and another important thing: if you want to improve your game, you need to practice.”

Djokovic to meet Roger Federer

While Stan Wawrinka almost knocked off Roger Federer in the semifinals here last year, he wasn’t to be, losing 7-6(6) in the third. This time, he started quickly, but then Federer was on top of him, smacking his forehand, chipping him around, and attacking his second serves. He grabbed it 7-5 6-3.

Wawrinka is now done for the season, too, winning Roland Garros for the fist time. He was incredibly good on clay in Paris, but the 30-year-old still have work to do against the Big 4 boys. When he goes up against Federer, Wawrinka is up and down, he is not secured at the net, and he can get sullen.

This year, even though he was unable to win a Grand Slam this season, Federer appears to get better and better at the net cords. Against Wawrinka, he went 24/32 at the net points in two sets – pretty darn good.

He will have to do much the same against Djokovic. Yes, Federer did upend him early this week in the round Robin, but the final is another story. The Serbian wants to win badly as he will end this season nearly perfect. But the same goes with Federer, who has won six titles at the ATP Final and who loves indoors. It’s a pick-em, really.

Rafa Nadal: Very good, or very bad

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From the ATP World Tour Finals at LondonRafael Nadal is very intense. Obviously, he has not had a terrific year, not even close. He knew coming into 2015 that his body was pretty much done and he was in a fair amount of pain from wear and tear in the second half of 2014, But in January 2015, he was ready to go and he was hoping that he would be 100 percent.

But his recovery has been much longer than expected. The best news is he has been able to play all year. The bad news is that not only has the 14-time Grand Slam champion has not won a major, when he has not even reached to the semifinal. And how about this? At the ATP World Tour Masters 1000s, he did manage to reach the final at Madrid in 2015, but he has won 27 Masters 1000s since he began back in 2005, which has been quite a feat, so not winning at all this season, which has unglued him mentally.

“I think that I am playing in the toughest surface for me to play, indoor, and in the worst part of the season always for me, these last tournaments of the year,” Nadal said of the 02 Arena in London. “If I am able to play well here, I think that’s great news because that can be a good chance to start next year again with positive feelings,” he said.

But here is the good news: he has been pretty consistent this fall, reaching the final of Beijing, taking down Fabio Fognini in the semis (the Italian had stunned Nadal in five set at the US Open) and then falling against Novak Djokovic. He beat Stan Wawrinka in Shanghai in the quarters before going down against Jo Tsonga. In Basel, he beat Marin Cilic and Richard Gasquet before he fell against Roger Federer in the semis. In Paris, Wawrinka got his revenge and beat him in the quarters. For Nadal, at least he has been grinding, which is a positive. He is vulnerable, but he is not giving up.

“Then the results on Beijing, Shanghai, Basel, Paris confirms that I am playing much better, no? So happy for that,” Nadal said. “As I said in Beijing, my main goal is try to start next year with my level, with the level that I want to be. I am working to make that happen.”

On Monday, Nadal took out Wawrinka 6-3 6-2. He did not have to play fantastic, as the Swiss was way off, but he was directed, crushing his famous forehand. His serve isn’t massive andhis backhand is still landing too short. But, he still doesn’t believe that he can dominate with his volleys.

However, he is getting closer and closer, which is why he is ranked No. 5. That is not horrible at all.

Maybe in 2016, he will be ready to rumble again

“I don’t know what’s going on next year, but for sure the end of the season helps,” said Nadal. “The way I am playing at the end of this season helps to try to start the next year with a different energy than what I started last year. It’s obvious that I am working hard.”

However, Nadal has said that he doesn’t like the surface on the ATP Finals. Exactly what type of serves, who knows? Is it too fast? Too medium? Too slow?

“I never say that is fast here. Here everybody is saying that it’s slow. The court is not fast. The court is okay. But it’s obvious that I am playing against the best players of the world. I only won the first match. That’s important for me. I never say that is fast here. Here everybody is saying that it’s slow. It’s not that I’m saying it’s fast,” Nadal said.

The odd thing is that Nadal has won just about everything. He has won Australia, Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open. He has also pocketed Indian Wells, Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome, Canada, Cincinnati, Tokyo (a 500) and Beijing (also a 500), among others. Without a doubt, Nadal can win on every surface if he is playing his absolute best.

But the reality is that after the US Open, or the summer overall, he has historically declined in the fall. He rarely went deep from October-November, but in 2013, he was on fire, reaching the ATP World Tour Finals. Maybe he is ready to pounce. On Wednesday, he wiped out Murray 64 61. Now, you are talking






The Picks: Murray vs Federer, can Andy stop the great Rog at Wimbledon?

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2- Roger Federer vs. 3-Andy Murray

This will be hell of a match. The last time at Wimbledon was in 2012 in the final, when the Swiss took Murray in four sets. That was Federer’s last Grand Slam, but really, it doesn’t matter too much, because the 33 year old is still brilliant on grass. Yes, he might be a little slower when running around, but his volleys have improved over the past two years (thanks, Stefan Edberg) and his one-handed backhand has also become better when going down the line. Here at the 2015 Wimbledon during the past 11 days, he has been clinical, trouncing five partners.

With all that said, it is Murray’s time. The world has it that the Britain’s has a sore shoulder, which isn’t great, but he did not win two majors and a Olympic gold because he was bombing aces. He won because he has a lot of different shots and likes to play long points.

If Murray is going to win the match, he has three critical things:

1: He has improvement his forehand over the past five years, but he was to push forward, swing hard and believe that he can stroke the lines. He cannot just throw it up deep and soft. He has to crack it.

2: His first serve isn’t massive, but it is pretty darn good and he mixed it well. It’s his second serve that is problematic: he cannot just push it down the middle. He has to make sure that he shows depth.

3: Murray’s volleys are exquisite. He doesn’t have to charge the net all the time, just enough to bother Federer, because he knows that the Swiss would love to take it over the net, and if he does, Federer will win the contests hands down.

Murray will do all the three things and win it in five glorious sets.

1-Novak Djokovic v 21-Richard Gasquet

This is quite surprising, considering it looked like the Roland Garros Wawrinka champion was going to dispatch Gasquet and get ready to face Djokovic again. But the Frenchman showed a lot of guts and won in five terrific sets.

But does Gasquet have a legit chance to upset No. 1 Djokovic on grass? Probably not, considering that the Serbian is 11-1 on head-to-head. But they have never played on grass before and Gasquet did reach the semis at 2007 Wimbledon, so he can attack the ball and dig in. Let’s say that Gasquet one a set, but the defending champion Djokovic will be super-steady and win it in four sets.