Apr/15

16

Monte Carlo Surprises

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Gael Monfils downed Roger Federer for the second time in a row on red clay, in the Davis Cup final last November and today in straight sets in Monte Carlo.

And right, Rafael Nadal is embroiled in a third set with John Isner, who he has never lost to in four meetings. Though Isner extended Nadal to five sets at Roland Garros four years ago.

Nadal just broke for 3-1. Isner now showing signs of crumbling at the hands of the King of Clay.

Stan Wawrinka was crushed by Grigor Dimitrov. The struggles continue for Stan the Man, since he lead Switzerland to the Davis Cup triumph last November.

Marin Cilic, who has been as invisible as Claude Rains for most of the season, just knocked off Tsonga.

No surprises with Novak Djokovic though, the Serbian machine is rolling as usual, today he will square off against Andreas Haider Maurer.

42 comments

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 16, 2015 at 10:29 am

    Interesting in the doubles, Paes and Nestor joined forces but lost today in straight sets. Both are alpha males and rarely play together but both have struggled this year with respective new partners Bopanna and Klassen. Paes and Nestor rarely play together.

  • Dan Markowitz · April 16, 2015 at 11:20 am

    Paes and Nestor can almost join the 100+ doubles division. How about Monfils’s ballin’ and taking out Fed in straights? Is it inconceivable Gaels could win RG this year? Djoko is manhandling Gulbis’s vanquisher.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 16, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    Paes and Nestor won Winston Salem together two years ago. Imagine two guys over 40 winning a title together. Gotta figure the Bryans will still be winning titles into their 40s. No way Monfils wins the FO, he may tantalize us with another sensational run, by SF is his ceiling. Sure would love it to be proven wrong though.

  • Dan Markowitz · April 16, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    Wow, what’s happened to Wawa. He loses again early in a tourney, this time 1 and to Dimitrov, who’s been struggling.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 16, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    Wawrinka have never been the same since Davis Cup final and Mirka’s lip in London. But Wawrinka and Paire did team up to down Paes Nestor today. Like Harold would say, Stan might need to play some mixed dubs at the FO to build confidence and right the ship.

  • Thomas Tung · April 16, 2015 at 8:03 pm

    Yeah, for this guys it IS inconceivable that Monfils wins a Slam. La Monf has had some great wins before, but not consistently through best-of-five at the majors. Head is the issue, as always …

  • Dan Markowitz · April 16, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    Just watched second set of Tiafoe’s win over Frantangelo in Sarasota. First, what’s up with the ball senior citizens in Sarasota? The average age is 70+. Don’t they have any kids in Florida. Not that I’m pulling ageism here, but it’s a little weird when the ball kids could be the players’ grandparents.

    I was impressed by Tiafoe. He’s got a big serve already at 17. His forehand, which was supposed to be a problem, is a dynamic shot. He walks like Jim Brown, the old Cleveland Browns running back, like he just got hit by a big defensive tackle. But I like that about Tiafoe. He seems very relaxed and composed. Looking forward to seeing more of him.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 16, 2015 at 10:11 pm

    Typical Monfils win, loves getting up for the big matches vs. the big names on the big court. But he usually suffers the letdown after the big win with a dud loss.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 16, 2015 at 10:13 pm

    They have a ball person shortage, kids have school this week, can’t miss school to be a ball kid. I told the ball kid supervisor if worse comes to worse I will jump into action (and pen an article about the experience) but so far she has not needed my services.

  • Dan markowitz · April 17, 2015 at 3:34 am

    Scoop,

    I’ve been looking for you on the live feeds of the matches and haven’t seen you yet so it’d be nice to see you as s ball boy man reporter out there. Are they charging for tickets? Doesn’t look like a terribly big crowd.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 17, 2015 at 8:23 am

    Dan the live feed, commentated by Mike Cation (who I met, really nice guy), shows only a few rows and those are often empty because they are in the sun and the back rows on both sides of stadium are shaded. Ticket sales are up 30% this year. The grounds are quite a nice spread, with two other courts for matches and 2-3 others for practice. It’s a very nice venue and it does not have an empty feeling at all. Every court always has a good crowd of people watching. The grandstand court has a bleacher that is completely shaded by a tent. You know how it is, people prefer the shade when it’s 90 degrees in the sun.

  • Andrew Miller · April 17, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    How did tiafoe fare with BjornF? Thought Bjorn wouldpull rank.

  • Andrew Miller · April 17, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    Nope…Chase Buchanan d. Tiafoe with a bagel. Welcome tothe bigger league Franky T.! Tiafoe beat Fratangelo but his compadre got Tiafoe back. Im sure Tiafoe will remember it! And Delbonis routed Donaldson. As it should be, you dont get wins for showing up.

  • Dan Markowitz · April 18, 2015 at 6:23 am

    I was surprised Buchanan, the pride of Ohio State, handed Tiafoe such a lopsided loss, but maybe the Maryland flash was tired after 5 matches. These real clay courters like Delbonis have to be tough for rubes like Donaldson.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 18, 2015 at 9:25 am

    Buchanan is a level above these kids. It’s been a slow rise for Buchanan but he’s shown flashes of being a top 50ish type player – losing to Jaziri 75 in the third at US Open qualies last year, and some other matches as well. For sure Tiafoe had to be fatigued, this is I believe his first Challenger and to qualify and make QF is a huge result. I saw some of the match, Tiafor was throwing his racquet in frustration, it looked exactly like I have felt a few times, you know you’re too tired to give your best. You know you can do much better or even beat the guy at full strength but you are handicapped and you have to lose, it’s the worst feeling for a tennis player. He was very gracious to Buchanan at the handshake. Tiafoe is a passionate and emotional player, he really wants it.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 18, 2015 at 9:29 am

    Andrew, Tiafoe is showing good signs, he’s a junior who is making his mark already at the Challenger level. I think he was physically shot vs. Buchanan, take nothing away from Chase, who last time I saw was working hard in Delray Beach practicing with Rajeev Ram after Chase lost in qualies.

  • Harold · April 18, 2015 at 9:34 am

    I saw Tiafoe coming off as a baby Harrison. After the second game. He looked as though he’s thinking, he is not supposed to lose. It was kind of look at me, all decked out in Adidas, stenciled racket. Whereas CB, is wearing clothes from Tennis Warehouse, and still in Challengers.

    Better start showing some better body language. Bit whippy on the forehand, and that wont hold up in the big leagues.

    So far. I dont believe the hype

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 18, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Good points Harold, but remember he’s still a junior. Fed at the same age was similarly petulant. Tiafoe also shows some very good qualities.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 18, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    Djokovic just manhandles Rafa, falls down the early break which was a surprise as the pattern most often was for Djok to jump out early and look like he could blow out Rafa who storms back and makes it a war. But Djok was down 0-2 and very nearly 0-3 but then reeled off 6 of the next seven games. The second set was tight but Rafa could not create any breathing room. Djok eventually got the break at 3-3 and finished the job. Sensational performance and IMO the indicator that he will dominate Rafa in Paris. Loved that huge Nole fan wearing that “Dean for President” tshirt in the front row was so lively and throwing punches after big Djokovic points, then the soon-to-be champ went over and gave the man his towel. Awesome display of clay court tennis by Djokovic, he’s taking tennis to a new level of greatness.

  • jg · April 18, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    What was up with that Dean for President t shirt, is that a novelty item over there?

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 18, 2015 at 4:27 pm

    No idea jg, strangest t shirt choice of the year. But the guy was the best fan I ever saw support a player at a pro match, guy was all in for Djokovic, throwing punches after big points won by his hero.

  • Andrew Miller · April 18, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    Scoop, I read on Tiafoe – his coaches helped him with a “do over” on his groundstrokes to compete at this level. Apparently he enjoys surprising opponents (with unexpected serves and well timed dropped shots). My guess is that he intends to go big given that he has signed with Jay-Z’s management company and not the usual suspects like IMG.

    On Buchanan he was moving high up the charts, from the 200s down into the 100-125 range, and making challenger quarters and sometimes higher almost every time out. He seemed to make a real push. Some of that must have stuck with him and made him think bigger.

    Guys like Delbonis seem to be pulling a “Stepanek” or a “Querrey” in dipping into the challengers – get some easy points. It’s a little cheap of them but I can’t imagine it does anything but help opponents – they win either way playing against better competition.

  • Andrew Miller · April 18, 2015 at 9:18 pm

    But am wary of Tiafoe or anyone else given that the gap between the challengers and the big leagues is enormous. A player doesn’t just hop over that gulf. Coric has done it and Kyrgios too but those two guys have either a finely honed competitive spirit like Coric or a mesmerizing game like Kyrgios.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m on the bandwagon for all the “next” U.S. players like Tiafoe and Kozlov – even Wake Forest’s Noah Rubin (who owns all of them!). Most of all I’m glad to see SteveJo, Sock, DY and yes, even Rhino Harrison, committing to their games and making real headway at best of three set tournaments.

    Look at Sock – don’t under-estimate that Houston clay court win. #1 is always a huge one, that will inspire the other U.S. players to get their first tournament. They are now awake if they weren’t before.

  • Andrew Miller · April 18, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    AND – for all we know the next great U.S. player is Ernesto Escobedo. Can’t predict this stuff.

  • Andrew Miller · April 18, 2015 at 9:23 pm

    Harold, the Tiafoe forehand was sharpened up – probably means it’s liable to break down. Any player worth salt will pick that up and go after it.

    The tour is hard but from what I’ve read Tiafoe likes the sport a lot and likes to compete. I’ve never liked a lot of Harrison’s game but I think his mini-comeback of sorts is all about him doing more of what he’s good at and less of what he’s not. Tiafoe does have a set of good coaches with him, I’m not sure how receptive any of these players are to coaching but from what I understand all three of the big junior names – Donaldson, Kozlov, Tiafoe – all are coachable and pay attention. We’ll see if it matters!

  • Andrew Miller · April 19, 2015 at 12:52 am

    See Harold’s point now. Tiafoe’s patience is DNE. He has some great wheels for sure and a big serve. I saw lips of his match with Novikov in Calabassas and the young Tiafoe was constantly upset about not hitting a service return winner – the biggest deal was that he was able to zero in on Novikov’s big serve at all! He was right there every time and able to take a cut at it – shows he might be able to fashion a good return of serve, which U.S. players aren’t know for outside a few players – Agassi, Sampras, Chang Courier etc.

    So – Tiafoe has a lot of power and great wheels, a nice drop shot too. He almost over-runs the ball. But he betrays his youth out there – this guy is really just a kid. He gets upset quite easily instead of taking that disappointment and making a quick adjustment so that next ball he’s on it. He was indeed acting like Harrison in feeling he should have been in on this ball or that one, rather than making some mid match adjustments so that he actually WAS on the opponent’s serve.

    Normally I would have thought Novikov would knock Tiafoe out pretty quickly, but goes to show even with Tiafoe’s game’s many, many flaws – it is as unorthodox a game as I’ve seen, not conventional off any wing but the supersonic serve – he has a lot of things that should translate in his matches in the future – even to the point where he beats players he has no business beating right now. With some work now, he might even beat THOSE guys in a few months.

    So yes – his on court attitude needs a tweak and some coaching to learn from his matches. I don’t love the way he hits the ball but I do like the ways he competes when he is committed to points. Right now, he loses a lot of time and energy on the court.”

    Youth is wasted on the young!

  • Dan Markowitz · April 19, 2015 at 6:12 am

    Andrew,

    “Youth is wasted on the young!” Well, who else should it be wasted on? I’ve always found that adage reflexively repugnant. Some young people do quite amazing things and Tiafoe seems to be one of them.

    I didn’t see Tiafoe’s match against Chase, but you’ve got to give the kid a break. Even in the match against Frantangelo, he looked exhausted. His forehand against Frantangelo was big. Buchanan is the type of player Tiafoe will beat badly in the next couple of years.

    As for Nadal-Djoko, what an epic battle of champions. The heart in that match, the desire, the get’s and winners were amazing. It looked like the old Rafa until Djoko just took his heart and game and smothered it. Djoko was playing his all-court game and beating the King of Clay. A couple of points, Djoko hits a much flatter ball than Rafa and as the match went on, Nadal became the much more fatigued player. That really hurts him in a place like Miami where Nadal has never won. But even in cooler Europe, and on clay, where Nadal can make these sick sliding shots, after a while Djoko just bludgeoned Nadal.

    Even though Nadal is a very good volleyer now, it was Djoko approaching the net and making Nadal try to hit very difficult passing shots. Djoko also drop shotted Nadal and often hit backhand lob volleys over his head sending Nadal chasing balls around the baseline from the net. The other big plus is that Djoko’s serve was much bigger and piercing than Nadal’s who has never mastered that out wide serve on the deuce court the way Djoko has on the ad court. So Nadal is having to fight for many more points and Djoko is getting more easy winners.

    It was a fascinating match because both guys are such great players and competitors. In a Djoko-Murray match, we almost know now that Murray will battle Djoko for a couple of sets and then the match will slide heavily in Djoko’s favor. Fed v Nadal usually isn’t a contest, especially on clay, and Fed v Djoko is wonderful, but in a different way than Djoko v Nadal where it is a battle of wills as much as talent.

    The French Open is now a must-see event.

  • Dan Markowitz · April 19, 2015 at 6:16 am

    Scoop,

    I guess Russell was wrong about Olivio winning the Sarasota tourney as he got blitzed by Delbonis. So you’ve got two Argies playing in the finals there. I don’t know even if Izzie or Sock could win Sarasota against two dirtballers like Bagnis and Delbonis.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 19, 2015 at 9:48 am

    Well, Delbonis is a lot more experienced than Olivo but still, if an astute tennis mind like Mike Russell is hyping Olivo, you know he must be pretty good.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 19, 2015 at 9:52 am

    After seeing yesterday’s Djokovic handling of Rafa I really believe he’s going to dominate clay and dominate Roland Garros this year. He has solved Rafa. After losing serve in the first game, Djokovic never panicked and was in complete control. People are thinking Rafa will close the gap and the matches will be tougher the next times they clash again but I think the converse is very likely: Djokovic will beat Rafa by even more disparate scorelines. It looks like Djokovic has solved Rafa on clay.

  • Dan Markowitz · April 19, 2015 at 10:38 am

    How astute can Russell be? Olivo lost to Delbonis like 1 and 2. It goes to show you that when even an experienced pro loses like Russell, often in his own mind, he hypes the ability of his vanquisher.

    I wouldn’t be so close to counting out Nadal. He’s great at making adjustments and he knows that red clay at Paris better than anyone. Djoko had beaten Rafa in Monte Carlo before, but he’s never beaten him over 5 sets in Paris. I agree, I think Djoko is the favorite as well, but we’ll see.

  • Andrew Miller · April 19, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    Dan, I’ve talked Tiafoe’s game for several years now. I’ve said my piece: I’m impressed with Tiafoe’s competitive spirit (similar to Harrison) and his willingness to mix it up (a lover of drop shots alongside a splintering serve) – some of his game is positively Roddick. Biggest serve to hit the post Roddick world since Isner – and as a big a serve as the tour will see when it’s given a few interesting looks and spins, depending on what Tiafoe does with it.

    But, I’m not impressed at all on the ground-stroke side and I’ve pointed this out repeatedly. And as I’ve said before when it comes to any player’s game, and that holds for anyone anywhere, it usually doesn’t matter what I think – what holds is what the player’s able to do and how their opponent responds. And like I said Tiafoe has a nifty ability to nearly over-run every ball, which is quite a luxury – it shows he’s extremely fast and must have some serious wheels, not unlike a Chang or Nadal.

    But what he does when he gets there – there’s not so much maturity in terms of shot selection. That’s what separates the men from the boys on the tour in any event with a few notable exceptions – Sampras, Agassi, Djokovic, Nadal etc.

    I’d love to see this from any player any time. I’ve always said this – in general the U.S. player don’t have the kind of court sense and knowledge that would benefit them. Add in some un-orthodox ball striking that may or may not stand up against the top tier of players and you better hope they find a will to stay focused.

    That’s pretty much it from my end on Tiafoe-ian observations. I like his up-side a lot and think he will have some chances to make in-roads, especially because he’s a competitive guy in a competitive group of young players that use each other as a measuring stick. He also has the encouragement of everyone from the McEnroes on down the food chain. But I think his criticism of his shot selection really dooms him from one point to the next and credits his opponents points they don’t deserve. Ryan Harrison was doing a lot of this in his match against Koslov last year and Donaldson too.

    Now Novikov should be a little worried that he wasn’t able to work through Tiafoe’s game – because that makes Novikov a player that won’t have many more chances than a Calabassas final. He looked very slow in comparison to Tiafoe and generally was shocked by the speed of Tiafoe’s serve and the fact that more balls came back than he was expecting. And this is even taking into consideration that he was winning points against Tiafoe because Tiafoe would be lamenting the previous point. Shows Novikov’s rise up the rankings is to be taken with a grain of salt.

  • Andrew Miller · April 19, 2015 at 7:42 pm

    Watch out when Scoop makes predictions. Scoop has made a lot of good ones lately. This might well be the year Djokovic re-enters the GOAT conversation on solid ground.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 20, 2015 at 8:12 am

    We are looking at incomplete embryonic players still evolving. Something to like about all of them. Ton of work to do, so close yet so car from the mountain top. Right back into the tournament grinder in Savannah, Kozlov has a WC and faces top seed Tim Smyczek in first round. Jarmere Jenkins vs. Mitch Krueger. Tiafoe takes on Vince Millot of France. Jared Donaldson vs. Jason Kubler. And WC Ernest Escobedo vs. Bjorn Fratangelo. Ryan Harrison is playing Guadalajara Challenger and faces Juan Ignacio Londero of Argentina. Harry is #3 seed ranked 126 in world now.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 20, 2015 at 8:21 am

    Agree Andrew, this is the year Djokovic will achieve so much so impressively that he will become a legitimate contender for GOAT discussions.

  • Dan Markowitz · April 20, 2015 at 8:36 am

    Dennis Novikov, if we’re comparing Tiafoe against Novikov, than Tiafoe doesn’t have much to worry about. There are lifelong Challenger players and even though I’ve never seen Novikov play, I’d wager he’s one of them. Nobody knows right now whether any of these young guns will be impact tour players, but I’d say of all the young Americans I’ve seen, I’d pick Tiafoe to be that ATP impact player.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 20, 2015 at 10:35 am

    Novikov is a good player. Good enough to be Janowicz at US Open. Big strong heavy hitter, one of those new age giants, at least 6 ft 6 or 7. Just has been mired in inconsistency and lack of big results. One of those guys who, when he gets hot, can trouble most anyone. But as we know there are a lot of good players struggling like Novikov. De Bakker. Harrison. Paire. Ward. Collarini. Klahn. Kachanov. Copil. Wang. Phil Bester. Dancevic. Sela. Russell. Resiter. Grzgorz Panfil. Nedovyesov. Kudla. Montanes. Hanescu…

  • Dan markowitz · April 20, 2015 at 11:30 am

    And all the guys you mentioned for the most part have been career Challenger players or will be. Maybe the jury still out on Harry, but Kudla and Russell, for example, is and will be Career Challenger players.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 20, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    Russell turned pro in 98 and once got to #60 in the world. Earned well over $2 million in prize money. He’s made the fourth round of a major (FO) and fourth round of a Masters Series (IW). He’s had a remarkable career. TO call him a “career Challenger player” seems somewhat inaccurate or even disrespectful.

  • Dan Markowitz · April 20, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    Russell has had spurts of playing tour events, but for the most part, he’s been a Challenger player. I would wager he’s played many more Challengers than Tour events. If you look at his rankings history, he had only one year, 2007, when he spent a considerable amount of time with a ranking lower than #80. That’s a Challenger player. His lifetime tour record is 77-150!I mean compare him to Spadea, who played a lot of Challengers, Iron Mike has been on tour now for 16 years and won 77 matches on Tour. That’s an average of not even 5 tour wins a year. Spadea in a comparable time on tour won 311 matches, an average of 15 matches a year. Russell has been mostly a Challenger player.

  • Bryan · April 21, 2015 at 9:14 pm

    I was stoked with Monfils and Isner at Monte Carlo. Wish one of them could’ve gone deeper. But I’ve got high hopes for Isner this clay season. BTW he’s not at Barcelona. Anyone know why?

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 22, 2015 at 7:46 am

    A lot of the Monte Carlo players skipped Barcelona. Probably to focus on the more points of Rome and Madrid perhaps?

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