The top 32: John Isner got better, but did Jo Tsonga improve?

Isner IW 15 TR MALT1765


The top 32, 2015, ATP, Nos. 12-9

No. 12

Kevin Anderson

The South African really improved this year, adding some new shots, mixing it up and, of course, blasting away with his massive serve. He has been fairly consistent over the season, but he has been unable to knock out the big boys at the majors. However, at the US Open, he out fought Andy Murray and then went down against Stan Wawrinka.

At Wimbledon, he reached the fourth round and he was so close, winning the first two sets against Novak Djokovic. But then the Serbian surged and, in the fifth set, Anderson had some chances but he lost 7-5. Yes, the 6-foot-9 Anderson has had trouble overcoming the top 10 opponents – like falling against Rafa Nadal, Kei Nishikori, Roger Federer, Murray, Wawrinka and Djokovic – but at least he was pretty aggressive and solid. If he locks in early, perhaps the 29-year-old can reach a semifinal at a major and stun another one of the so-called Big Four-plus 1 (Djokovic, Murray, Federer, Nadal and Wawrinka).

No. 11

John Isner

In 2009, Isner cracked the top 10 and reached No. 9, his highest ever. Is he ready to go further in 2016? Why not? The American was not spectacular every week this year, but he has been fairly consistent when he was feeling confident. At Miami, the 30-year-old Isner knocked off Grigor Dimitrov, Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori before losing against Djokovic. In Madrid, he bested Nick Kyrgios and reached the quarters, when he fell against Tomas Berdych 7-6 in the third. He won Atlanta again; and he reached the final in Washington. At Paris/Bercy, he stunned Federer and then went down against David Ferrer.

Those are the positives. However, the 6-foot-10 man must improve. Without a doubt, first and foremost, he must do something with his return, which really hurt him. His backhand has gotten better, and his volley is more respectable, too. We all know that his serve is mind-blowing, as is his forehand. But if he cannot break, then he has to go to the tiebreaks all the time, and emotionally, that can get him down. That is why he has yet to reach a semifinal at the major. The good thing is he did get better in 2015. During the off-season, if he pushes himself, maybe we will see him surge at Australian Open for the first time. Now that will be a whole lot of fun.

No. 10

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Tsonga IW 12 TR MALT3267In 2008, when the Frenchman reached the final at the Australian Open, I really thought that he was going to win a Grand Slam for sure. Yes, he lost against Djokovic, but still, he was young and he had crushed Nadal in the semis. He was leaping around, he was nailing his forehand and he was dominating the net.

But unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to do it again. He is hurt all the time, especially with his sore knees, and while he can get close – like he did in 2015 when he reached the semis at Roland Garros, overcoming Berdych and Nishikori before Wawrinka whacked him in four sets – he didn’t cross the finish line. At the US Open in the quarters against Marin Cilic, he was right there, but he went down in five sets. He did win Metz, and he reached the final in Shanghai, beating Nadal in the semis and then Djokovic cruised past him.

Just like the other two men above (Anderson and Isner), they can crush their forehands and serves, but there backhands are so-so and they do not return efficiently. At least ‘Jo’ has reached the Top 5 once, and when he is feeling right, he truly believes in himself. But can he go all the way at a major? I am not sure anymore.

No. 9

Richard Gasquet

Here is another 30-year-old player. We have to ask the question: Will the Frenchman even win a Grand Slam, or even a ATP Masters 1000? Maybe, but now, I doubt it. Yes, he has won 12 titles over the years, but he has yet to be able to knock off the highest competitors. He has a wonderful backhand and forehand, he can be creative, and he can hustle, but is just a little bit short. In 2015, he did reach two quarters in the ATP Masters 1000, and he did reach the Wimbledon semifinals once again, overcoming Wawrinka 11-9 in the fifth set. That was a classic. Unfortunately, he was somewhat tired and then he lost against Djokovic. He can be flashy, so perhaps he will change it up in 2016. If he does, Gasquet may push into a Slam final.

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

Murray IW 13 TR MALT7820


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.

‘One for the boys’ as Federer captures Davis Cup title


The Davis Cup … finally in the Swiss trophy case.

LILLE, FRANCE – And so the fairy tale has come true. The final missing piece from Roger Federer’s trophy cabinet, the one that seemed so out of his reach largely through his own neglect, has finally been captured. The great man has a Davis Cup title, after he rubbed Richard Gasquet’s nose in the red dirt of Lille to give Switzerland it’s first ever team title.

Eyebrows may be raised at how quickly Federer recovered from the back injury that put him out of the ATP Finals a week ago, but backs are strange things, and for all his denials of the Davis Cup’s importance to him, Federer really wanted this to celebrate a team trophy rather than an individual one. “We wanted this clearly very badly,” he said. “It was definitely one of the better feelings in my career, no doubt about it.  So much nicer to celebrate it all together – this is one for the boys.”

The Swiss may be a two-man team of Federer and the Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka, but they were the better team this weekend. Although the French organised this final superbly, the one missing element was a happy camp in the home locker room. What exactly happened to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the course of the weekend is still unclear, but whether it’s an injury or a loss of confidence, the French were left clutching at straws when they entered the final day needing to beat an essentially fit Federer in the first of Sunday’s matches.

The job was given to Richard Gasquet, who has twice beaten Federer on clay but whose confidence is not exactly high. The French part of the world-record 27,448 crowd did what it could for him. They tried their hardest to hate Federer for the day, but found how difficult it was. They booed Federer’s practice shots, and when Gasquet walked into the arena to a massive fanfare with lights, music and cheers from over 20,000 French mouths, he was walking into a theatre from which he could emerge triumphant. Changes may be on the way for the Davis Cup, but it would be a real loss if atmospheres like this generated by a stunningly colourful home-and-away tableau were to be lost, as would happen in an all-teams-in-one-place format.

It’s easy to forget this was a golden opportunity for Gasquet as well as Federer. At nine he was on the front of France’s leading tennis magazine as the future of French tennis, and at 16 he was heralded as a prodigy for winning a round at a Masters-1000 tournament. Yet another 16-year-old called Rafael Nadal soon eclipsed him, and he has struggled to find the limelight since. This was his moment, but he never looked as if he believed he could seize it. As he walked down the stairs onto the court, his face betrayed the signs of someone who was petrified, and despite a wag in the crowd having shouted during Saturday’s doubles “Lift up your head, Richard,” he walked onto the court with his chin drooped and his shoulders hunched.

A good start would have told Federer he had a fight on his hands, but the match was effectively decided in the third game. Gasquet led 30-0, but Federer came back at him. At deuce Federer played the kind of point he would never have played before teaming up with Stefan Edberg. He hit a backhand slightly off the frame, realised late how good it was, ghosted into the net, and won the point with an improvised half-volley. A forehand winner down the line on the next point broke Gasquet’s serve, and punctured his fragile confidence.

From then on Federer was in control. There were some great points, and plenty of occasions when Gasquet got the better of them. But he was having to work so hard to hold serve, and he never had a single break point. He plays essentially the same game as Federer, but Federer does it so much better. Federer won the first set in 44 minutes and broke twice in the second. Early in the third Gasquet twice had 15-30 on the Federer serve, but Federer just went up a level to snuff out the danger. And then he twice broke Gasquet to win 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 in an hour and 53 minutes.

The end showed what it meant to Federer. At 5-2 40-0 he served down the middle, followed it up with a drop shot that Gasquet didn’t get near, and collapsed in triumph onto his tummy in the red dirt. It was also a relief for the French, particularly for the crowd who could finally allow themselves to celebrate with the great man who speaks their language, and his teammate Wawrinka who also has a high profile in France.

A career of true achievement

So Federer’s trophy cabinet is complete, but realistically the golden era in Swiss tennis has started to end. Federer is 33, the support team of Marco Chiudinelli and Michael Lammer, who were with Federer on the junior circuit, are 33 and 32, and Wawrinka as the youngster will be 30 early next year. There are few Swiss youngsters on the horizon. “This is an amazing day for sports in our country,” he said. “We’re a smaller country. We don’t win big events every other week, so it’s a big day. I hope it can create things for the future, in tennis but even for other sports, to inspire a generation and get other people to invest more into sports.”

Federer wouldn’t say whether he will play Davis Cup next year. He needs to play one more weekend in 2015 or 16 to be allowed to play in the Rio Olympics, but it will be a case of a weekend with his mates rather than a strategic assault on winning the cup.

As the Swiss celebrated with Dwight Davis’s silver salad bowl, one man to get himself into the photos was René Stammbach, the president of the Swiss Tennis Association. He is one of the front-runners to succeed Francesco Ricci-Bitti as president of the International Tennis Federation next year. That may be how Switzerland exercises its influence on world tennis once Federer and Wawrinka hang up their rackets in a couple of years’ time.

When in Roma: Serena dusts Robson

Federer, Djokovic shake off Madrid defeats

The last player to beat both Williams sisters as a teenager at a tournament was Kim Clijsters as a 19-year-old back at the 2002 WTA Championships. As promising as a player as she is and the Briton clearly has at least top 20 stuff, Laura Robson is not as advanced as the Belgian was at the age. After upsetting a physically struggling Venus Williams in her opening match in Rome, Robson went down to No 1 Serena Williams 6-2, 6-2.

The left-handed Robson did crack some winners in the contest but committed way too many unforced errors and, against as player as powerful and consistent as Serena (consistent being the key word here), that is not going to get it done. Robson is currently working with Adidas Player Development coach Sven Groeneveld, who surely must be trying to help get her serve under control, as her toss is all over the place. She

Aussie Open Day 8 Picks

Milos will take on Murray

Milos wants his 4th crack at Federer



What a tough call Caroline Wozniacki versus Svetlana Kuznetsova is to open Monday

Sharapova Finally Tops Sexiest Poll; Nadal wins Men’s

Maria has rematch with Lisicki.

It took eight years for Sugarpova to rule as sexiest female player.

For the first time in seven years, Maria Sharapova has won the Readers’ Poll for Sexiest Female of the Year. Sharapova

Time for the 8th Readers’ Poll

Readers: Vote for your top and sexiest players in the annual Readers’ Poll.
Rafa put a dent in Federer's GOAT label.

Rafa put a dent in Federer’s GOAT label.

It’s the eight annual Readers’ Poll, designed for our readers to sound off on their preferences.

Our most popular categories are Male and Female Players of the Year and, of course, the Sexiest Players. We’re allowing comments on the polls for the first time ever.

Sexiest Female Player Award is named after Ana Ivanovic after she won for five straight years. Sexiest Male Player Award is named after Marat Safin after he was also a five-time winner.

Last year’s winners included Novak Djokovic and Petra Kvitova for Players of the Year along with Rafael Nadal and Carolina Wozniacki as the sexiest. Last year’s voting can be found by clicking here. editors do not necessarily support the results of the vote, especially in the Player of the Year categories. We realize that many readers will vote for their favorites as opposed to the players who have had better results.

Polls are open for one week to Saturday, Dec. 29 with results posted on Sunday, Dec. 30.

TR 2012 Year end top 50: The men, Nos. 31-40

Marcos was wed to former player Karolina Sprem and also became a father.

We continue a review of the top 50 singles players on the ATP and WTA Tours. Today we look at the men ranked Nos. 31 -40.

31. Radek Stepanek

No the 34-year-old Czech is not the player that he was six years ago when he was a top 10 player, but he

Hit List, Sept 29: Petrova rises again

For Nadia, 30 is the new 25.


Nadia Petrova hadn

Wimbledon Men’s 4th Round Picks: Eight men soon to be out, and eight to stay in

Novak will try and fend off the charging Llodra.



Novak Djokovic received the booby-trapped gift of Del Potro in a similar round at RG and now Nadal has tall task of finding away to stop the consistently Argentine at Wimbledon. The Spaniard did take the DelPo down Indian Wells, but that was less than three months into Del Potro’s comeback and he looked pretty good in overcoming a motivated Gilles Simon 7-6(8) 7-6(5) 7-5. Del Potro is still not that comfortable on grass though and Nadal is. So much will depend on how well both men serve and whether Nadal can find away into Delpo’s backhand side. He absolutely must not allow Del Potro to climb into the zone on his forehand side. Nadal will scrape through in five dramatic sets.


As I wrote on, this is winnable match for Fish, but 2010 finalist Berdych is playing extremely well again and will have to be knocked out of his comfort zone. The two have never played before and both are serving like monsters. Fish is a better volleyer and can match the Czech from the backhand side, but Berdych has a harder and more accurate forehand. If Mardy is going to reach his third Slam quarter, he must do an excellent job of attacking Berdych’s second serves, which I think he will and pull out a four set victory.


How exactly is Gasquet going to win this match knowing that Murray has come back from two sets down against him twice, including at 2008 Wimby, when Gasquet served foe the match at 5-4 in the third set? Sure he has tremendous talent, but the in-between-the-legs shot master Murray is right there with him, is mentally tougher and is a more solid all around player. The Frenchman will win one set, no more.


Huge props to both guys for getting here: to Lopez for his first-ever victory over Andy Roddick in the last round and to the Pole for qualifying and upsetting Gael Monfils. Kubot can really play, but with the way that F-Lo is serving, volleying and passing, he’ll get through here in straight sets.



This match will be a blast to watch, even though you have to like the Frenchman to come though on grass based on his big serve, athleticism and ability to take over the net. But Ferrer is a speed demon who has actually been volleying quite well himself. Whether he can stretch this to five sets will depend on his return, but let’s assume he will return at least decently, because you know the guy thinks he can mentally outlast the Frenchman. Ferrer may be able to for two sets, but Tsonga has become a better competitor late in matches and he believes he can win this one, which is more than half the battle with Big Jo. Tsonga in five.


The all-time great is 10-0 against the Russian, has beaten him twice on grass in Halle and has only dropped 2 of 24 sets to him. Is it clear enough who is going to win this match? Federer will enter the quarters again virtually untouched and then the fun really begins.


Few expected this fourth round contest, but Tomic is developing into a fine all-around player and the aging Belgian has gone deep twice at Wimbledon, so it should not come as too much of shock. The 18 year old has a lot of variety, as he’s able to keeps his slices low and can hammer his forehand. Malisse beat him on grass in Queens last year, but Bernie appears to be growing up mentally and will stay composed long enough to win in four. It finally looks like Australia has another top-10 player to be on its hands.


Llodra joins Lopez as another lefty serve-and-volleyer in the round of 16 and the world has seen him stifle plenty of foes, but even though Djokovic was feeling awful in his four-set win over Marcos Baghdatis, he still returns better than anyone else on tour and serves big enough to keep the Frenchman from chipping and charging a ton. This one will be a mini-thriller, as Llodra won there only super fast court meeting at the 2010 Paris Indoors. Djokovic won their other two meetings on slower outdoor hard courts, but with the weather heating up, the grass court should play significantly faster. I see Llodra making charge, but believe that Djokovic will win almost all the big points in a four set victory.