AO Opening Day Intrigue Matches

Venus Williams vs Coco Gauff in a first round rematch at Wimbledon. Young vs old, can the kid school the vet again?

Monfils vs Lu. Lu is 36 now and he got in on a PR, though he has not played a match since mid 2018. He’s 0-3 career vs Monfils including a five setter in Melbourne.

Djokovic vs Struff. Not a walk in the park for the betting favorite. Struff’s volleys are among the ATP’s best.

Federer vs Steve Johnson. Fed admittedly is not ready, since not playing since the South American tour. Johnson just won a Challenger.

McNally vs Stosur. Old vs young, both like to get to net.

Lloyd Harris vs Diego Schwartzman. Harris will have his hands full with the human wall.

Fognini vs Opelka. Opelka beat Fog in four sets at US Open but the hot headed Italian avenged the loss at Davis Cup finals.

Ugo Humbert vs John Millman. The red hot French lefty vs the always tough as nails Aussie.

Cilic vs Moutet. Calling the upset here. The left hander from France enters his second AO and seventh major main draw with a lot of confidence.

F Lopez vs Roberto Bautista Agut. The Iron Man of Spain adds to his consecutive majors record but no way he beats the ATP’s most consistent counterpuncher.

Pella vs JP Smith. 22 seed vs the gangly Aussie veteran journeyman.

Tommy Paul vs Leo Mayer: Young American rising star vs the veteran Argentine war horse.

Mmoh vs Andujar. Is the American ready to make some waves in a major?

Daniel Evans vs McKenzie McDonald. Battle of the small guys.

Sandgren vs Trungeliti. Winnable match for the American now coached by Mike Russell.

Nishioka vs Djere. Nishioka is one of those players I would watch vs. anyone.

Albot vs Raonic. A first round flop by Raonic would officially relegate him to journeyman status.

Strycova vs Cirstea. Strycova is a feisty sort who gets under people’s skin. Fun to watch.

Paire vs Stebe. Highly probable this match on court 22 will produce some kind of drama that goes viral.

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  • Andrew Miller · January 19, 2020 at 7:17 pm

    Watching some Osaka-Bouzkova. This could be a blockbuster or a wipe-out! Bouzkova is HUGE – she is tall and strong. Her results have been OK since her Toronto break-out, but nothing like that event.

  • Doogie · January 19, 2020 at 8:57 pm

    Just read an interview from a german doping expert:
    “Tennis is among Top4 sports regarding doping. Nadal is under permanent suspicion. Farah and Jarry just made errors that they got caught. Anabolics are the most taken by tennis players.”

    Orginal interview (in german)


  • Andrew Miller · January 19, 2020 at 9:54 pm

    Article on Tennis Analytics – I enjoyed this piece by Steve Tignor, on Craig O’Shannessy, how his statistics have helped Djokovic and other players. To me here is the money quote/best quote:

    —>>>>>”“Everyone’s philosophy was, ‘Just worry about your own game,’” O’Shannessy says. “But winning matches isn’t just about playing your game. It’s about figuring out how to beat a specific opponent.”

    Even more frustrating for O’Shannessy was the data—or lack thereof—that coaches and players relied on for their game plans.

    “The statistics were so primitive,” he says. “Everyone was guessing about what worked. Was serve and volley dead? Should you hit more forehands than backhands? I didn’t want to guess, so I started counting.” [END OF QUOTE]


    There’s also a good quote at the end by Brad Gilbert.

    ““The patterns tell you a lot, especially with guys in the 80 to 100 ranking range. But the best guys can break the patterns. I’m still a believer in the greatness of the human element.”

  • Andrew Miller · January 19, 2020 at 9:57 pm

    Believe the doping is there. If someone is prefer they are gone from the sport. I have a problem with TUE also, the exemptions, but understand why they are in place as the medical field uses many steroids to help people in general recover.

  • Andrew Miller · January 19, 2020 at 10:15 pm

    Querrey d(evastates) Coric. Actually thought Coric would do a lot better, Querrey totally routed him.

  • Jeff · January 19, 2020 at 10:33 pm

    Shapo goes down, wisely, and he will preserve his health and get out of Australia now. No reason to deal with the air there.

    Watching Opelka against Fognini now.

  • Jeff · January 19, 2020 at 10:56 pm

    Andrew that was a good article.

    My question is if Shaughnessy was so important to Djoker beating Nadal then why would Djoker dump him?

    I think the flip side of this story is that the guy may be annoying his clients since he gets dumped a lot. Still excellent work.

  • Andrew Miller · January 19, 2020 at 11:16 pm

    Wow, Fucsovics beats Shapovalov! Yeah I was worried about peaking before the Australian, this is definitely a setback.

    Jeff, yeah I thought that was a good piece on the analytics! I’m sure it costs a bundle, and probably O’Shannessy (given he went from using it to help lower level players to the top players) is all for making the big bucks.

    My guess is Djokovic could always hire someone to look at his stats and other player stats, or bring in O’Shannessy whenever it’s an ultra important match. I’d think this lends itself to all sorts of conflicts of interest – he could advise both sides of the same match 🙂

  • jackson · January 19, 2020 at 11:38 pm

    Scoop – Roger has played since the S American tour. He went to Hangzhou, China with his new lapdog Zverev at the end of December and they played several exhos, both singles and doubles against the Bryans. It’s apparently the reason he pulled out of the ATP’s shiny new toy, the ATP Cup. Amazingly, it’s gotten no publicity at all, neither during the Cup nor now at the AO.

    If Rafa or Novak had snubbed the ATP to go play for millions of dollars in China, they both would have been excoriated for it but Roger the saint can do whatever he wants with no repercussions from the league or the adoring media.

  • Andrew Miller · January 19, 2020 at 11:50 pm

    I like the Roger the Saint. $172,000 from his pocket going to the wildfires. So too his buddy Nadal, another $172,000.

  • Hartt · January 20, 2020 at 12:11 am

    With Stan not playing the ATP Cup because of his continuing commitment to Doha, it made no sense for Roger to play a team event like the ATP Cup without a decent number 2 player.

  • Harold · January 20, 2020 at 12:17 am

    Were you wanting to root for Switzerland, Jackson?

    Fed and Nadal are going to South Africa for existence next month, should anybody be pissed off?

  • Jeff · January 20, 2020 at 12:36 am

    Good point, Andrew. I would imagine Djoker didn’t need him anymore since he and his team had picked his brain and understand the methods. And Shaughnessy likely wants to peddle to other people and make more money that way.

    By the way, classy of Zverev to wish Angie a happy birthday with Hopman Cup photos of them together. Angie was always annoyed by his childlike mannerisms like his lateness.

  • jackson · January 20, 2020 at 12:52 am

    Oh c’mon Hartt, that’s a weak excuse. Many of the other teams had Challenger level players on them. Just like the one about Fed wanted to spend time with his family – but it was ok to leave them for a week to go to China?

    I don’t care if Fed played the ATP Cup or not. He was probably smart to avoid it because IMO the level of play and intensity in the play-off rounds was far too much singles and doubles to play as a warmup for a slam. You want to get ready, not kill yourself for your country.

    I just wonder why Roger’s trip to China was so secretive? Why did it get no coverage? Nobody talked about it during the Cup and that’s unusual since Fed is normally talked about ad nauseum by the media whether he’s at a tournie or not. Then I heard JMac and Fowler talking tonight saying Fed might not be ready for the AO because he hadn’t played for so long, and come here and see Scoop repeating the same nonsense and I wonder why. It’s weird how it’s being covered up for some reason.

  • Doogie · January 20, 2020 at 7:16 am

    Henri Laaksonen Swiss Nr3 is #102

  • catherine · January 20, 2020 at 7:48 am

    Sloane Stephens out again, 3 sets to Zhang. Sloane will shortly find herself in the qualifying if this goes on.

  • Hartt · January 20, 2020 at 8:04 am

    Sloane is now No.30 in the live rankings, and several women still in the tourney likely will pass her.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 20, 2020 at 9:23 am

    Federer was asked by Courier after his win about his off season and he mentioned vacation, training block and some South America exos but he mentioned nothing about China. Doesn’t matter much that Federer did not have any official matches since November, he knows how to get ready and the win vs Johnson today proves it.

  • Andrew Miller · January 20, 2020 at 9:24 am

    Any other good matches? I stopped watching after the Johnson vs Federer match. I’ll take a look at highlights.

    From what I could tell Serena Williams looked very good, but wasn’t quite in championship form. Not necessary for round one. She and Federer were around the same level, just did what they had to do and kept it at straight sets. Eased their way into round two against ideal opponents.

    Must be nice 🙂

    Osaka leveled Bouzkova much more easily than I thought was possible. And she also looked like she wasn’t playing at her max ability, so that’s good too. Bouzkova has a lot of work to do, she wasn’t at her “Toronto Best” level and needed to be to make any headway against Osaka and make it competitive. A lot of unforced errors.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 20, 2020 at 9:25 am

    Shuai Zhang is a tough opponent for anyone. Sloane is struggling now, she looks like a finished player who could hang it up this year or next.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 20, 2020 at 9:27 am

    Jackson if the these supposed China exos where “competed” at the same intensity as the South American ones were, it took as much out of Federer physically as a trip to the bagel shop to get a dozen bagels.

  • catherine · January 20, 2020 at 9:29 am

    There’s a Ghost at the Feast in Melbourne and she’s a player Serena really doesn’t want to meet. I’m hoping she’s back soon.

  • Jon King · January 20, 2020 at 9:31 am

    Thats why I laughed when the announcers said Sloane could ‘turn it on’ and win the AO like she did the US Open. Anyone could see that US Open Sloane was in killer shape and current Sloane is definitely out of shape.

    Venus fought as long as she could. Almost 40 years old. Pretty amazing to be that competitive with a young player.

  • Andrew Miller · January 20, 2020 at 9:34 am

    Nadal Djokovic Kazakhstan exo was a lot of fun. Their rationale was funny. “For Kazakhstan Youth” etc. Ha! They rolled in the (charity) dough for that one. The ATP head had to sign off because can’t play an exo during a regularly scheduled ATP tournament.

    Go figure. Kazakhstan that tennis hotbed.

  • Jeff · January 20, 2020 at 9:49 am

    Not surprised that Fed’s matches in China weren’t covered since everyone gives a free pass to China these days. It is sad.

    Anyway you gotta believe in Coco now. Venus has to know she is at the end but she won’t hang it up.

    Roger say anything interesting in press?

  • Harold · January 20, 2020 at 9:51 am

    Hasnt Kazakhstan been paying lower ranked players to play under their flag?

    Steve Johnson tried to hit more two-ganders against Fed than he’s hit his whole career. He’s done.. Challengers, Delray, Newport, Houston tour for him..

    VW started well? She got broken from 40-0 in the first game..she can’t move to her back hand twice in the same point. The second bh is going into the bottom of the net.. Maybe it was her immune deficiency combined with breathing crappy air for a few days, but it’s turning into a sad end for a HOF career..Go to ESPN, they can use a WOC in their announcing stable. Send Pammy the *itch out to pasture

    Shapo was a shock, but the Hungarian played well, came up with some great passing shots in the 4th set, when the script was almost ready to flip

    Macdonald up two sets on Evans could not close the deal..must be first tourney back, haven’t seen his name lately

  • Jon King · January 20, 2020 at 10:00 am

    Venus is almost 40, has a disease, came off a training injury, breathed bad air for a week….and still took a young very good player to 7-6. 6-3.

  • Harold · January 20, 2020 at 10:10 am

    If she’s happy flying 24 hours to lose in the first round.. no problem. But she does have those issues, and once she loses a set, she’s pretty much done. Winning against a formidable opponent in 3 doesn’t happen for her anymore..

  • Jon King · January 20, 2020 at 10:24 am

    As I have said before, we have trained on the next court from Venus the past 3 off seasons. She has a great time with her new coach, family and friends. Brings her little dog too. They work very hard with her training. She obviously enjoys the process.

    Venus says she will play as long as she is having fun. I see no shame in what she is doing at all. To be able to be remotely competitive in her situation is damn impressive.

    I think many fans would rather see a diminished legend than most of the other matches anyway.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 20, 2020 at 10:24 am

    I would guess McDonald ran out of gas and could not finish, he’s not played a match in half a year, and a five setter in who knows how long. Venus was done years ago, but she still loves to play presumably and we could see her for another five years. Johnson also lost his coach Boynton who decided to coach Hurkacz full time I believe. Shocked Shapo lost that, thought he had it in the bag after surviving the second set. But Fucsovics has shown he can play with the big boys on several occasions. Federer picked Fucsovics as his first parctice partner at new Miami Open stadium last year. That’s respect.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 20, 2020 at 10:24 am

    Dimitrov said he’s still being coached by Agassi.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 20, 2020 at 10:25 am

    Nishioka beats Djere in four sets.

  • Andrew Miller · January 20, 2020 at 10:31 am

    Cocomania wins again, and this is a “bad loss” for Venus Williams, who has a few notable results per year. CocoG gets Cirstea next. Cirstea usually gets up for these matches, but CocoG likes the big stage so – never know what you’ll get.

    Wozniaki over Ahn – didn’t see it, but that looks like a wipe-out. Ahn played so well at the US Open. Not this time.

    The Zhang-Stephens match was puzzling. Can’t make your opponent look like the female Agassi. I have seen Zhang play before on clips and she is good. But Stephens?! Slam champ? Where’s her resolve from a few years ago?

    McNally over Stosur. Didn’t catch this but wow, nice result for McNally and the WTA veterans are falling. Stosur couldn’t have liked this one.

    Goerges d. Kuzmova easily. Now faces Martic, who really beat up on McHale. Tough match – for both of them.

    Men’s side:
    Raonic almost through safely? Almost, just a little more.

    Berretini looks good in the Harris match. Berretini IS good!

    Djokovic struggled some against Struff. Good to see Struff play more to his potential, but he tends to get up for his first rounds of slams. Otherwise, nope!

    Kohli doing well too! I think Kohli could make for a good second round match versus Tsitsipas, but Tsitsipas blew his first round opponent away. At least it’s a match of two nice one-handed backhands.

  • Hartt · January 20, 2020 at 10:34 am

    Marton Fucsovics is the type of steady player who can give a guy like Shapo fits.

    Tom Tebbutt has a piece about the match on the Tennis Canada site.

    Denis admitted he was nervous in that match.
    “I think I played really nervous today,” he said straight-out at the start of his post-match media conference. “Obviously I was in really good shape and condition going into the tournament and I just played really tight today.”

    Denis said there were tactics to calm down on court, and things he and Youzhny were working on for the mental side. Obviously he wasn’t able to implement those things in that match, and he must do that if he is going to take the next step in his career and make the Top 10.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 20, 2020 at 10:34 am

    Wonder how many more of these drubbings Venus will endure. She should move on. Fognini down two sets to Opelka, Fog could have a meltdown, hates playing big servers. McNally is quietly rising step for step up with Coco but guess who is getting all the accolades. Barty looks fitter than ever. Dellien says his match with Nadal is being covered in Bolivia like it’s a World Cup final.

  • Jeff · January 20, 2020 at 10:43 am

    Yeah Venus isn’t capable of winning events so if she is OK with losing early and packing up her stuff, then that is what we will see. That was not a positive loss in any fashion.

    Is Agassi even at the matches?

    Yes, Steve Johnson is finished. He had a great run getting to be the top American for a while. Of course, that is not like being the top French player of top Canadian player in this day and age. He is still good enough to qualify for Masters events

    Sam Querrey interestingly said he would rather win a Masters than Olympic gold. I tend to agree with him, we see how hard it is to win a Masters event.

  • Andrew Miller · January 20, 2020 at 10:56 am

    Tennis has a marketing problem for sure. But China has the most tennis players on earth (China, U.S., India, Germany, UK, then France, Spain, Australia, Canada etc).

    I had to look that up. I had no idea China had that many people that play tennis but it’s not that hard when you have way more than a billion people and a small fraction of them like tennis 🙂

    In terms of percentages South America is low, but Africa is the worst. I won’t say more than this.

    If anyone wants to see the stats:

  • Harold · January 20, 2020 at 11:02 am

    Johnson is 72 in the live rankings. He barely qualifies for getting into qualies at Masters..better do well in Delray, or it’ll be a WC either for the main draw, or qualies at IW, and Miami

  • Harold · January 20, 2020 at 11:07 am

    My bad, do IW and Miami have 96 draws, byes in the first round for seeds .Johnson would get directly in..

  • Andrew Miller · January 20, 2020 at 11:09 am

    At least Johnson banked $90K for the “easy loss” to Federer. Noticed as Harold did he struck a few backhands – but not many! Kind of seemed Federer knew where the Johnson ball was going before it landed (which was pretty scary) – maybe Federer even had the analytics for Johnson (however unnecessary).

    Federer has acknowledged he uses analytics a lot. I still appreciate what Gilbert said when he said these guys are pattern breakers. They clearly use the analytics but they have enough good sense to also pay attention to their observations.

    That article really opened up my eyes. I have noticed that the best players have a good sense of where the next ball goes and that some players seem out of their depth (like Taylor Fritz) when playing them.

    Even though I don’t want to speculate, I got to: the big guys get analytics in playing low totem players like Fritz, and players like Fritz have to get smarter or lose worse than they already do in these match-ups.

    If Nadal was no match for Djokovic armed with analytics, these little guys are chopped suey without any reasonable strategy. That has to be obvious in this arms race we call pro tennis.

    Don’t see much evidence of the analytics on the women’s side because they always say just play my game and it’s hard to see a strategy (though sometimes I am surprised by a Sabalenka doing something interesting).

  • catherine · January 20, 2020 at 11:14 am

    Good article in Guardian sport suggesting too much social media and gaming before a match adversely affects decision making in football. I’d like to see some research done among tennis players. If anyone would tell the actual truth about their pre-match activities.

    Andrew – you need to know what the definition of ‘tennis player’ is in China. They certainly don’t show much keenness to turn up to watch real players in real tournaments.

  • Andrew Miller · January 20, 2020 at 11:15 am

    Jeff, my hunch is O’Shannessy sells his stats to the highest bidders. He has spent a lot of time working on this stuff and putting money into it, so he wants the payback and the top players likely pay the most.

    I still haven’t seen this other-worldly sense of where the ball is going on the women’s side of tennis, or much evidence of basic strategy (though Yastremska sort of had one last week maybe?). I rarely hear players (though I don’t pay enough attention for sure) on the women’s tour say, “yeah my goal was to get the player to hit a lot of balls they hate hitting, in totally uncomfortable spots”.

    I think that shows that this is marketed mostly to guys that see its value and can pay the big bucks. It’s still new (for tennis) and I haven’t heard much talk about it other than maybe the last 24 months?

    And yeah this is something a Djokovic can easily reverse engineer – just ask his staff to scout his opponents (even on youtube) and notice what shots they make errors on them and then pull it together. In the past we know Federer used to do his own scouting and still does today, scheduling practices in order to get a sense of how a player hits before he plays them at a future date.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 20, 2020 at 11:18 am

    Sam cannot win a singles Olympic gold medal, no chance of that, needs more intensity and fire. Highly unlikely he can win a 1000.

  • Andrew Miller · January 20, 2020 at 11:19 am

    Catherine, my guess is few Chinese can afford those tickets and tournament organizers are too greedy to fill the seats with fans. Dubai etc has a packed house, they are wealthier than (name your prince) and I’d say move them to small venues and pack the house in China rather than these enormous stadiums with two players a few ball boys and girls and an ump.

  • Andrew Miller · January 20, 2020 at 11:21 am

    Won’t rain on Coric. But I want to!

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 20, 2020 at 11:21 am

    Johnson was steady around 30 in the rankings and then got in top shape two years ago in the off season and he still went down the rankings. So his confidence was damaged. He was moving so well two years ago I even commented he’s one of the best moversm quickest movers in the ATP and yet his results went down. Tough sport. Still Johnson is one hot month away from top 50.

  • catherine · January 20, 2020 at 11:22 am

    Re analytics – Fisette is an analytics freak. Let’s see how this turns out with Naomi. Can’t see Konta or Kerber getting that much into them. Kerber’s a romantic and Konta just plain didn’t want to know.

    Sabalenka comes from Belarus where thinking up interesting things to do passes those cold winter nights.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 20, 2020 at 11:23 am

    Don’t be suprised if O Shanessy peddles his stats to Djokovic for free. Or even pays Djokovic to appear like part of the team.

  • catherine · January 20, 2020 at 11:29 am

    Andrew – I think we’re talking sexism here, or the assumption that girls don’t need to bother their pretty heads about where the ball lands. Or do coaches just not bother ? Or do the hacks ask different questions ?

    WTA certainly don’t want the girls to come across as anything but dumb in those ‘interviews’.

  • Harold · January 20, 2020 at 11:58 am

    Op -Ed in today’s NY Times about Fed, the last paragraph will probably infuriate Scoop..ha ha


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