Posts Tagged 'atpworldtour'

The dominance of Novak Djokovic

© Getty Images

2015 has been Novak Djokovic‘s year. The Serb has won eight ATP World Tour titles, three of which were Grand Slams. He has accumulated an impressive 72-5 win-loss record with four of his losses coming in title matches. Only one player (Roger Federer) has beaten him more than once this year and comparisons are already being made to his successful 2011 season. His biggest regret will be his failure to capture the French Open title after dethroning Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals, the man who has denied him on many occasions. The tears on the podium said it all, reflecting on a lost chance. Nevertheless, this has been a season that will go down in the history books along with Federer’s 2006-7 and Nadal’s 2010.

Is Djokovic better than he was four years ago? A breakdown of both his seasons is provided below along with my personal view below.

Djokovic Analysis

Even though the 2015 season has not concluded yet (Djokovic is still scheduled to play in Paris and London) we can safely say that this has been the best season of his career. He is the overwhelming favourite to beat Tsonga in the Shanghai final (he leads 13-6) and is a strong contender to take out both Paris and London, titles he won last year. Victory in Shanghai and Paris would break his 2011 record of five wins and be an all-time record for most Masters 1000 wins in a year. That would put him ahead on all the categories listed above and would justify why this has been his best yet. The Belgrade native is injury free and is in the prime of his life. Novak Djokovic, take a bow this has been your year.

In the spotlight: Hyeon Chung

© ATP World Tour

As we move onto the Asian swing, the attention turns to Asia’s No. 1 male tennis player in Kei Nishikori. The Shimane native has consolidated on his success from last year with titles in Memphis, Barcelona and Washington. The current World No. 6 became a superstar in his home country with a finals appearance at the 2014 US Open, knocking out World No. 1 Novak Djokovic on route to the title match. As Nishikori has proven, one man is all it takes to inspire a new generation of tennis aspirants for a country renowned for it’s football success.

Prior to Nishikori’s rise, there was of course Paradorn Srichaphan who became the first Asian born man to reach the top 10 of the men’s rankings and won five ATP World Tour titles before retiring in 2010. More recently on the women’s side, there was Li Na a former Australian and French Open winner. Young Asian tennis stars have been hard to find but they are slowly emerging from the unlikeliest of countries. One player is Hyeon Chung, a 19 year-old Korean who has solidified his court craft in the challenger tour.

YTR Hyeon Chung

The current World No. 55 has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the past three years and now sits on the cusp of becoming the highest ranked South Korean in history (Hyung-Taik Lee reached a career high 36 in 2007). At 6’1″ and 183lbs, the Suwon native isn’t your typical Asian tennis player and definitely has the physique to make it to the top. 2015 has been an immensely successful year for Chung on the Challenger tour, with titles in Burnie, Savannah, Busan and Kaohsuing.

The talented teenager has also had his first taste at Grand Slam level, making appearances at Wimbledon and the US Open, losing in the first and second round respectively. Game play wise, Chung is solid on both wings with strong court movement to support his game. For someone of that height, his serve does need additional work in order to win more free points. He has already demonstrated that he has the mental strength to hold himself together and rebound from adversity.

Not making the headlines early on his career could be a positive thing for Chung as he continues to strive the best he can be and when the time comes, he can grasp the opportunity with both hands. While he may not be as well known as his fellow teenagers Coric, Kyrgios and Kokkinakis, Chung will be someone you will definitely hear of in the years to come.

US Open 2015: First week wrap-up

The end of the first week of the last Grand Slam is drawing closer and we are no clearer to finding out as to who will emerge as the men’s champion. Djokovic and Federer have proven themselves to be genuine title contenders with flawless victories, while others like Andy Murray have had to fight a little harder. As always there has been drama and sad goodbyes but that is part of the spirit of the game. No individual is bigger than the game of tennis.

1. Mardy Fish bids farewell

© AP

Mardy Fish has played his final professional match at the US Open.

Along with the likes of Andy Roddick and James Blake, Fish was part of a new wave of American tennis players who came to prominence in the early 2000s. He reached three Grand Slam quarter-finals, reached a high of No. 7 in the world and made four ATP World Tour 1000 finals appearances. An undisclosed illness struck the man from Minnesota (which was later revealed as an anxiety disorder) at the peak of his powers and has riddled him ever since. But he refused to bow out, soldiering on before announcing his retirement at the end of the US Open this year. He lost in the second round in five sets to another veteran, Feliciano Lopez.

2. The heat

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Jack Sock has been one of numerous casualties to the humidity.

So far the humidity seems to have affected the men more than the women. 13 retirements on the men’s side have taken place prompting questions as to whether the heat rule that is applied to the women’s side should be allowed for men as well (a 10 minute break at the end of the second set when the temperature reached a certain point). Some would argue against such a rule, saying that such a player should be in top physical shape when playing in such an important tournament. They should of conditioned themselves beforehand. Most would train their bodies to tolerate such a temperature for e.g. Novak Djokovic struggled early in his career but nowadays it doesn’t seem to bother him.

3. Federer’s sneak attack

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This has been a shot widely discussed…

This has been a shot that only been added to Federer’s arsenal and it has been instrumental in his latest success. The sneak attack as most would call it, involves returning a second serve on a half volley in the hope of throwing off an opponent. It paid dividends in his recent victories against Murray and Djokovic and we are seeing it on show again at the Open. The 34 year-old has demonstrated that it’s not too late to reinvent yourself and consistently resorted to methods to give himself an advantage. His coach Stefan Edberg has been of the initiators, encouraging the Swiss to serve and volley and be more aggressive.

4. Nadal’s shock exit

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For the first time in 10 years, Nadal will not have a major trophy to his name.

Until today, Rafael Nadal has never lost a five set match after going two sets to love up. His record stood at an imperious 151-0. A fourth round place seemed likely for Nadal mid way through the third set until his opponent, Fabio Fognini started clubbing winners (70 to 30 in his favour). The momentum quickly shifted toward the Italian and he never looked back. Early exits have become a commonality for the Spaniard, especially at Wimbledon but in the past he has always managed to find solace in the Parisian clay. The Mallorcan turns 30 next year and time may be running out for him to add to his 14 Slam victories. Is his physically demanding game finally taking a toll on him?

5. Nick Kyrgios

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Kyrgios has had a controversial 2015.

The name says it all. Even though the Australian lost in the first round of the US Open, he is still making news headlines for all the wrong reasons. Cricket legend Shane Warne penned a letter on Facebook, pleading for Kyrgios to change his attitude and not waste his talent. 12 time Grand Slam winner Roy Emerson called on the 20 year-old to change his ways or take a break from the game. Couldn’t of chosen a better mixed doubles player in Eugenie Bouchard, a Canadian who has been criticized for her lack of sportsmanship (snubbed a handshake with a Fed Cup opponent). Many observers noticed the “sexual tension” between the two in their first match together with some comparing it to an episode of the Bachelor.

The controversy surrounding Nick Kyrgios

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To put it simply, it’s hasn’t been a good week to be an Australian tennis player. And to make things even worse, reports have been circulating this afternoon that Kokkinakis, one of the innocent parties dragged into the Nick Kyrgios controversy, has been involved in a post match stoush with Ryan Harrison, which started off with the Australian taking exception to a few overrules from the umpire which escalated when the American appeared to reference the controversy which has gripped world headlines.

Kyrgios has already been fined heavily by the ATP and apologized personally and publicly. However, calls have grown louder for a hefty sanction to be imposed on the 20 year-old. These calls are yet to be answered by the governing body but I strongly believe there will be stronger penalties against the dual Grand Slam quarter-finalist. A few years back, another Australian by the name of Brydan Klein was fined exactly the same amount and suspended by the ATP for 6 months for racially abusing an opponent.

Christos Kyrgios, brother of Nick Kyrgios inflamed further tensions between his family and Wawrinka by suggesting that the Swiss would have withdrawn from the next few tournaments if he had been there with his brother in the locker room. In subsequent radio interviews (one which initially saw him kicked off after suggesting Vekic loved the “Kokk”) he persistently defended his brother’s actions by referencing a previous incident between the two players. Clearly he wasn’t going to win the debate by comparing apples and oranges and it just goes to show how immature he is.

The media coverage surrounding the saga has been immense and rightly so because these kind of comments have no place in society.  Innocent parties have been named and defamed and these are things that they’ll have to carry for the rest of their career. Kyrgios has won himself a new legion of critics who are itching to give him a bad name for every unorthodox move he makes. One man who has been quick to defend the Greek Australian is Wally Masur, Australia’s Davis Cup captain. Australia have reached the Davis Cup semi-finals for the first time in 10 years and any dent in their armory would be fatal against the team expected to be led by Andy Murray.

But by suggesting that Kyrgios would still be in the mix for Davis Cup selection in September drew the ire of Ray Warren, a respected Rugby League commentator who said that winning Davis Cup was more seemingly important than recognizing misogyny and working towards its eradication. And he is absolutely correct to think that way. Besides it seems more likely than not that the Australian will face further penalties and may not be available for the tie come September. To put the record straight, this has not been a good month for Australian sport, with the Ashes lost and barbs thrown but we can take some pride with the Australian Diamonds netball team who won their third-straight Netball World Cup.

The beauty of the hawk-eye challenge system

About a decade ago, the International Tennis Federation deemed hawk-eye suitable for professional tennis use and we have seen this technology applied to other sports for e.g. cricket and association football. Not unexpectedly, this system does have its critics, most notably Roger Federer. For those that don’t remember, Federer famously asked umpire Carlos Ramos in the Wimbledon 2007 final to have the system turned off after a call that was deemed out was reversed upon Nadal’s challenge.

But hawk-eye does have many positives. Chair umpires have the support of such a system that would help justify the decisions they make on court and in turn, they have become better umpires. It does make me wonder how tennis would of been like if hawk-eye were around during the times of John McEnroe. The crowd reception has generally between positive to the hawk-eye challenge system, which helps them to engage and builds the widely felt suspense during a line call.

Over the years, we have seen many players use hawk-eye to their own advantage along with the occasional controversy. A match that springs to mind is the epic five setter Andy Roddick played against Fernando Gonzalez at the 2010 Australian Open.

© DEMURY

Gonzalez was leading two sets to one with the match clearly going his way until a crucial moment in the fourth set changed everything. The retired Chilean was down set point and stopped mid rally to a Roddick forehand that he judged to be out. Upon Roddick challenging, the ball was judged to be in and the American was awarded the set. Despite Gonzalez’s protests, the umpire made the right decision in that Gonzalez had stopped and then the line judge called out.

Hawk-eye has proven that it does work both ways and you don’t just have to challenge when a ball is called out that you judge to be in. Take for instance, Andy Roddick challenging to fault his serve.

© Firas Bayram

Roddick didn’t react after Monfils’ return and correctly challenged his serve to be out even though it was called in. Not something that the crowd would expect but its definitely a thrill. Talk has already turned as to whether lines people and umpires are even required with such a system in place. John McEnroe has certainly made it clear that he would like to see such a change as it would broaden tennis appeal. Unfortunately, it is still early days and such a move would be premature and damaging to the game. Umpires are there to restore law and order and to provide a personal view not a biased view as to whether a ball is in or out. I’m all for the status quo and a strong believer that tennis would not be where it is today without hawk-eye.