Australian Open Finals: Dreams do come true!

How does this happen?! First time in the finals. 0-12 record against his opponent. Not even a set won in previous matches. And it’s Stanislas Wawrinka, who wins the title.

Of course, we’re not talking about just any title. It’s the Australian Open final against Rafael Nadal. One of the greatest players in the history of the game. Granted, Nadal had been experiencing some physical issues. Griggor Dimitrov came within a point of a two sets to one lead. So it could be argued that Nadal was fortunate to be there.

Even still, he had it all over Stan. Statistically, he had this guy beat in just about every department. But the will to win. The thing that Nadal has been known for, wasn’t with him. It was with Stan.

Stan’s A plan worked great for about two sets. He faced some tough moments with his nerves, but was able to finish the match in four.

The stars aligned perfectly for Wawrinka, during the Australian Open fortnight. He made it through to the quarter-finals with no sets lost. He was totally fresh. Even sporting a walk-over against Pospisil. Then he ran into Novak Djokovic. Big time trouble. But survived the encounter in a five set fight.

In the semi-finals, he faced Berdych. A very dangerous opponent with massive ground strokes. Stan took care of him in four. Setting up a showdown with Rafael Nadal. A player that he’d never beaten before. And even that wasn’t enough to deny him the trophy.

Congratulations Stan. You earned it!

rafael-nadal-australian-open-final-71Quinn Rooney/Getty Images AsiaPac

At 28 years old, Stan is having the breakthrough of his career. He admitted before the final, that he never expected to to be there.

Let’s take a look back at the match. Recapping on what it took for him to win his first grand slam tournament.

Set 1

5197606-3x2-940x627Stan comes out with the better energy by far. He looks focused and sharp.

Nadal is completely the opposite. He’s sluggish and frequently misfires with his forehand. Stan gets the early advantage and holds off any signs of nerves.

It’s 5-3 with Wawrinka serving for the set. The wheels come off and he drops three straight points. Love-40 opening for Nadal. Looks like he’ll be back on serve in a moment.

But then Nadal chokes. Stan misses three first serves and yet Nadal can’t get the ball in the court. He misses five straight returns and surrenders the first set to Wawrinka.

It’s 1-0 to Stan the man.

Set 2

rafael-nadal-injury-timeout-640The second set, starts out with an epic rally. After twenty-one strokes, Stan smacks an inside out forehand winner. Which leaves Nadal looking a little more than concerned.

Over the course of a match, these are not the points you’d expect him to lose.

Stan plays a flawless game to break. Then holds easily for a 2-0 lead.

Midway through the next service game, Nadal dumps a forehand into the net. He bends over wincing, hands on his hips. It’s not clear what’s bothering him but it’s apparent that something is seriously wrong. He wins the game and immediately leaves the court with the trainer for a medical time-out.

An argument ensues between Stan and the chair umpire Carlos Ramos. Stan demands to know why his opponent has left the court and Ramos refuses to tell him. He informs Stan that he isn’t required to give him that information.

When Nadal finally returns to the court, he is met with boos from the crowd. The match resumes and Wawrinka, easily serves out to a 3-1 lead.

We see that the treatment hasn’t helped Nadal very much. He has great difficulty bending. Costing him power and speed on his serve. Stan breaks, holds, and then serves out the set 6-2.

At two sets to love down and a locked up back. The chances of a comeback seems impossible. Even for Nadal.

Set 3

nadal2_CroppedEarly in the third set, Nadal starts to move better. He rediscovers the timing on his forehand.

Meanwhile, Stan is feeling the pressure. He’s now expected to win the match and it’s not sitting well with him. Panicking, he goes into self destruct mode. Giving Nadal, freebies here and there. Especially on the return of serve.

Nadal might not be moving well. But with his forehand firing and Stan botching most returns, it’s enough for him to take the set 6-3.

It’s 2-1 Wawrinka but the tables have turned. We just saw an injured Nadal, with severely limited movement, take the set. Could there still be a chance for him to win?

Set 4

Stan last pictureStan continues to struggle with his nerves. He’s holding his own serve but can’t play a decent return game. Spraying errors and misfiring on returns. Nadal doesn’t have to do much more than get the ball in play.

But that all changes at 2-all. Stan gets his act together and plays a smart return game. Aiming for safe targets. Which forces the hobbled Nadal, to scurry around the court after them. Easy break.

Stan’s up 4-2 now but his confidence abandons him. He dumps serve to love and Nadal is back in the set.

Frustrated, Stan goes back to basics. Moving Nadal around the court, keeping the ball in play, and simply playing smart tennis. He breaks him again and bangs his fist into his temple. Indicating that he’s got his thinking cap on and is ready to serve out the match. He does so in textbook fashion. Giving him his first Australian Open title and victory over Nadal. Couldn’t come at a better time, eh?

Nadal is gracious during the post match interview. Refraining from tears despite losing a title which he wanted, so badly. Stan, just looks happy (and surprised) to be holding the winner’s trophy. He congratulates Rafael and his team on a successful run to the finals and with a smile, says that he’ll be returning home soon to his wife and daughter.

This will probably be the biggest moment of Stan’s career. He’s closing in on 30 and there’s really no way of knowing whether this is the pinnacle or if there might be another slam for him on the horizon.

Putting all that aside however, this is a pretty interesting turn of events.

Stan is the first player to have cracked through the big four since Juan Martin Del Potro.

I’m not sure if this a sign of things to come or just a fluke. Regardless, it’ll be interesting to see how Nadal fares at Roland Garros. It’s a title that he’s only lost once in his career. But Djokovic, has proven that he’s vulnerable on clay.

There’s only a few players capable of doing it. But with the right set of circumstances, we could see a new French Open champion.

I probably shouldn’t get too far carried away. Nadal is still my pick to win the French Open. And I sincerely hope that he does.

Undeniably, this match will change Stan’s legacy as a tennis player. He’s now a champion.

Before I end this article, I want to ask you a question. Do you think Stan will win another major or is this just a one time thing?

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

Alex

Federer parts ways with Annacone

A few weeks ago, Roger Federer, announced that he was splitting with Paul Annacone. His coach since 2010.

Roger+Federer+Paul+Annacone+Olympics+Previews+TkGsWMIq2YOlNow, you might think this would be due to Federer’s drop in the ranking or lack of strong performances in 2013. But Federer and Annacone both say that their partnership had run it’s course.

When they first joined forces. Federer, outlined a plan with Annacone, to get back the number one ranking and win another slam. Having achieved both of these goals. It was mutually decided, that they were ready to move on.

Personally, I think it’s for the best. It sounds like things may have stagnated between them.

Besides, Federer is going to need to make changes to his game. I don’t believe he’ll have to reinvent himself to get back into the top group but he needs to improve in a few areas. The return of serve (especially off the backhand side) and his running forehand.

His slice backhand is great. We all know that. It’s a consistent shot, which he uses offensively.

A good choice for opponents, who feed off pace.

Unfortunately, he has the tendency to float the ball back to the middle of the court. He does so, daring his opponent to go to his forehand. But this let’s them start off their service rally in the attacking position. Forcing Federer, to play defense.

Also, his opponents know that he’s going to float the ball back. They know the likelihood of getting hurt off his backhand is significantly less.

So it only makes sense for them to starve his forehand as much as possible.

That’s why I think he needs to come over the ball more often and hit deep with some pace. At least, force them to run to get the ball back.

He doesn’t need to get away from slicing the backhand completely. He just needs more variety. Make his opponents, respect that side more.

As for his running forehand. I feel this is more of a weapon that he’s going to need to use. He hits the inside out forehand beautifully. Better than almost any other player that I’ve seen. That’s his bread and butter.

His running forehand is good too. But he needs to improve this shot to keep up with the younger players. Fed, doesn’t hit with as much spin as Djokovic, Nadal, or Murray. He’s older and it’s unrealistic to expect him to have the same defensive skills that he had in his mid-20s.

But without a great defensive to offensive shot, it’s just about impossible to win. Murray, Djokovic, Nadal, and others cover the court far too well to be hit off routinely. With a great running forehand in his arsenal, Federer, would be that much more dangerous. Especially in the extended rallies, where he gets dragged wide and needs to finish the point.

Lastly. Roger, should hit more short angled returns. He’s great on this shot and it works well against the incredibly defensive Murray, Djokovic, Ferrer, and Nadal. Dragging them off the court and leaving an opening for a Federer winner.

Well, that wraps up my assessment for now. Please leave me a comment, if you agree or think I’m crazy.

Til next time.

Rafael Nadal returns to #1

I remember watching the Wimbledon 2011 final, when it aired a little over two years ago. This was the match where the #1 ranking officially changed hands between Nadal and Djokovic (for the first time anyway.)

While technically Novak, had already secured the top rank by reaching the finals. It felt somewhat debatable as to who the better player really was.

Up until then, Djokovic had never beaten Nadal in a slam. He had an impressive win streak going into that match. Which included four straight wins over Rafa Nadal. But even with his triumph at the Australian Open, it was Nadal, who had claimed four of the past five majors. If Novak, wanted to be accepted as the new number one, he was going to have to beat Nadal on a much bigger stage.

Wimbledon-mens-final-2011-007Most people didn’t expect him to win. Grass, had never been the Serb’s best surface. And there was the longstanding argument that he couldn’t beat Nadal in a five set match. Rafa, seemed like the clear favorite for another Wimbledon trophy.

But the match told a much different story. Djokovic, came out the better player by far. Dominating the first two sets. Before his enraged rival, struck back to take the third 6-1. With the threat of a fifth set looming, Nole wasted no time in getting the momentum turned around in his favor. He won the fourth set convincingly and kicked off his run at the top with a bang.

novak-djokovic-WIMBLEDON-2011-rafael-nadal-06                                  This was the beginning of the Djokovic era.

As of October 7th, 2013, that era has ended (or at least is on hiatus, for now.) Nadal, has come back from a seven match losing streak to Novak. A seven month lay off from the game. A momentum halting loss to Steve Darcis, in the first round of Wimbledon. What more can I say? This man is the king of comebacks.

There was a time in early 2012, when I seriously questioned his likelihood of ever defeating Novak Djokovic, again. Looking back on the 2013 season, I’m really just in awe by what he’s accomplished. He skipped the Australian Open and lost first round at Wimbledon, yet he’s still the number one player.

In February, he simply said that he wanted to have a healthy start to the year, play a few tournaments, and see how his body reacted. With these expectations being so heavily surpassed. It will be interesting to see what goals he sets for next year.

Along with Djokovic. He won’t let Nadal stay on top of him for too long. I expect this drop in the ranking will only motivate him to do better. Novak is a fighter. It may take some time but he’s going to find an answer to Nadal.

I’m looking forward to seeing some great matches between them in 2014 and maybe at the World Tour finals.

Rafa celebrate                                           Vamos Rafa! You deserve it. :)

Alex’s thoughts on Andy Murray’s Wimbledon win

It may be a month overdue but I’ve still got to get my thoughts out on this. After all, this was a great win for him and finally brought an end to the UK’s 76 year Wimbledon title drought (Geez, even my grandpa isn’t that old.)

Isn’t it great? We’ll never have to hear that statistic again!

I was surprised that the final wasn’t more closely contested. Probably a lot of it had to due with the crowd, playing too big of a factor in the outcome.

Poor Nole. Can you imagine trying to win Wimbledon, when fifteen thousand people are cheering against you? Cheering every time you double fault and nearly swarming the stadium, during the final game of the match. Especially, while you’re desperately trying to make a come back.

The crowd, would have made it almost impossible for anyone to have beaten Andy on this day. But to his credit, the Scott brought his A-game to the finals and Novak clearly looked tense.

This win, puts him in a different stratosphere. Andy Murray, is now officially part of the “Big Four.” I know this isn’t anything new. He’s been considered as part of that group for years. But up until recently that status has been debatable. With two grand slams, he can now be considered a legitimate threat. Instead of a “dark horse.”

All I can say is that I hope the second slam has given him a lot of confidence. Going into the US Open, with a star studded field, Djokovic, Del Potro, Federer, and a refreshed Nadal, it will take everything he’s got to retain it.

Back at last!

Hey there guys,

Alex Daniels, here. I’m going to try to resurrect my long since dead blog, by posting a few articles about the 2013 Championships. I really am sorry to my followers. I’ve had a lot of changes happen in the past year of my life. Some for the good, some for the bad, and I just haven’t kept up with my blog, whatsoever.

Oh well, it’s never too late to change that.:)

Actually, I do have some good news. I’ve acquired some new equipment since the last time I posted. So from time to time, I’m going to be putting up product reviews. Keep your eyes out for that.

I also switched racquets from the Head MicroGel Radical Pro to the Wilson KFactor 6.1 95 (Del Potro’s old model.)

WPVR61-1So far, I’m really enjoying the new stick. It wasn’t as different from the MicroGel as I thought it would be. The main difference between them is the KFactor is not as powerful or forgiving. It’s also a lot heavier. Especially in the head.

Overall, I’m really happy with this racquet. For the strings, I’ve been using Babolat RPM Blast (16G) which has worked out great. These strings, do offer a lot of spin precision and the durability has been good so far. No broken strings.

But with that said, I’m still looking around at other options. In fact, I just bought some Luxilon ALU Power for my next string job.

As for the pro game, I’m really amazed by what’s transpired over the past year. Who would have predicted Nadal to be out for seven months? And then he comes back and steamrolls a path for his twelth grand slam title at the French Open. After he wins, there’s talk about Nadal getting back to number one, by the end of the year. Maybe even winning another Wimbledon title. Then just like last year, boom. He’s out of the tournament almost immediately. With Roger Federer, joining him shortly thereafter.

We’re all in shock from these upsets but nobody is going to benifit more from it than Andy Murray. This is HIS CHANCE to win Wimbledon. No Federer, no Nadal, nobody really threatening to him in his half of the draw and even if he has to face Novak in the finals, he’s got the comfort of knowing that he’s been able to beat him in a slam final. That and grass is Nole’s worst surface.

I really like Andy’s chances. He seems to be playing really well, so far. With some luck, I think he could win Wimbledon. But Novak Djokovic is still the favorite.

So what do you think? Are you going with Djokovic? Are you going with Murray? Maybe someone else entirely? Leave me a comment and let me know.

2012 Wimbledon finals

Hey everyone, sorry for the extended delay of this post. My busy schedule sometimes keeps me away from my blog. But I’m back to talk about the Wimbledon final between Federer and Murray. Federer and Murray? Yeah, what an odd combination. For the last four slams it’s been Djokovic/Nadal but finally we have some new faces. Well maybe not new but atleast different. 

The match was very good. The kind of high quality you’d expect from a Wimbledon final. Andy Murray, has long been pursuing his first grand slam title. Just like Agassi was, twenty years earlier. The ironic thing is that both Andy and Andre had lost there previous slam finals before making the breakthrough at Wimbledon. Both were considered to be the underdog and neither player was considered a likely candidate to win this tournament. Andre, won his final against Goran Ivanisevic. Would history repeat itself for Murray? 

As the match unfolded Murray found himself quickly in control. He broke Roger at the start of the match, then a tug of war ensued between them. They exchanged breaks of serve but ultimately Murray closed out the first set 6-4. 

In set two, Murray had real opportunities to get a stranglehold but seemingly floundered his chances. He was making inroads on Roger’s serve and it looked like he might be able to take the second set in a tie-break. A few lucky points from Roger gave him the second set 7-5.

Set three went to Federer after an incredible battle at 3-2. Murray, threw everything he had at the Swiss but it wasn’t enough. After losing this game and conceding the break the momentum of the match was clearly with Federer. He blew through the third set with very few mistakes. Roger won the third set 6-3.

In the fourth set Roger, got an opportunity early on and pounced on it. From then on it was a forgone conclusion. Murray, had too much hill to climb, though he never stopped trying. Roger served out the match at 5-4 to win his seventh Wimbledon and seventeenth slam overall. 

After giving an emotional post match interview Andy Murray was cheered on by his home crowd. Roger, praised Murray’s performance, saying he was certain Murray would win a slam at some point in his career.

I agree with Roger. Murray, played great. It wasn’t like in the other slams where he stormed in playing brilliant tennis and then seemed to whither up and die in the finals. Murray, competed hard from start to finish. Were he able to win the second set, I think he would taken the match from Roger. In the future he will remain a viable contender to win slams. I believe he’s going to have a lot more opportunties.

Federer, winning his seventeenth slam at Wimbledon, just staggers me. No one has ever come close to that kind of number, I mean Pistol only had fourteen. Roger, is now in a class by himself. How many more. can he get? Could he reach twenty? At 30 years old I don’t think it’s likely but with a couple more Wimbledons and the US Open Federer could end up with twenty slams. Or more. Scary isn’t it?

Thanks to the win, Roger is ranked on top again and has broken Pete’s record of most weeks at number one. (Poor Pete, his records are just getting trashed this month.) I admit, that’s a record I didn’t think he’d be able to pull off when he lost the top rank to Nadal two years ago. I and a lot of others thought that Fed’s days at number one were over. Turns out we were wrong, Fed surprised all of us and now he’s number one again. 

With the US Open series starting next month, the players will be returning to the States to duel it out across North America. Expect the number one ranking to be up for grabs in the weeks to come.

Wimbledon semi-final preview

It’s been a long slog for these guys but they’re nearly at the finish line now. The only thing standing between them and the Wimbledon trophy is each other. Blocking Roger Federer’s path is the top seed Novak Djokovic. While Andy Murray, has to go through Jo Wilfried Tsonga.

It should go without saying that Roger Federer, is a fantastic grass court player. Will his past experience and success at Wimbledon be enough to overcome the athleticism and power of Novak Djokovic? I think so. Grass, is a rewarding surface for players who like to attack. The ball doesn’t bounce as high and it moves through the court quickly. Roger, will be able to play the match on his own terms without having to out-grind a younger and more physical opponent from the baseline.

Andy Murray vs Jo Wilfried Tsonga, is a tough one to call. Tsonga, is the better grass court player but he’s not as consistent as Andy Murray. It’s going to be decided based on how well Tsonga plays. If he comes out flat and doesn’t light up the crowd with his shot making, the match will go to Murray. But if he’s bombing aces and crushing forehands, then it should fall to Tsonga.

My prediction is Federer will play Tsonga for the Wimbledon championship this Sunday.