How surprising has the Wimbledon men's singles been?
2017.07.13 09:40 dropshot How surprising has the Wimbledon men's singles been?
On Monday, we went from thinking that we could have a final four that included the big four to today where we're thinking Roger's path has been cleared for his 19th Slam.
Ironically, while Roger's path has been made easier because all his top opponents are out, it makes the likelihood a "big four" can win less likely. However, we were in something of a similar situation last year where 2 of the big four made it to the semis and one made it to the final.
Let's rewind back to the start of the tournament. At the time, Murray's health was questionable, particularly his hip. I think Murray winning (to me) was unlikely, and that if he reached the semis, that would be the best he could do. Murray finds ways to do well at Slams even if he's not 100%, and his hip held up well enough for four rounds, even with opponents trying to drop shot and test it out. Really, Murray probably exceeded expectations, and he still had some opportunities to reach the semis if he had been able to close out the quarters in straight sets.
The big question for Murray now is how long does he need to recover, and will he be in good shape by the US Open. The other question I have is how long his partnership with Lendl lasts. Lendl kinda waltzed in to a great situation last year, and Murray finished the year as number 1, and because Djokovic has had his own issues, Murray will retain number 1.
Djokovic entered the tournament with mental issues. Would adding Agassi, then Mario Ancic, help? Turns out it might have, but he also had a physical ailment that I hadn't heard of until the fourth round. So Djokovic retiring (back in the day, he used to retire a lot, but mostly due to exhaustion, not injury) was a surprise.
In this respect, 2014 US Open was more surprising. At the time, Nishikori had to weather several five setters (against Raonic and Wawrinka), and no one expected him to beat Djokovic, and Djokovic didn't retire. I believe the heat may have affected Djokovic back then.
When Nadal entered the tournament, I'm sure many felt that he would continue the trend of losing early (Nadal haters fall in this camp) even if few addressed why
Nadal had lost early so often despite having won the title twice and reached the final three other times. The guy should be able to play on grass.
To address that, I think several factors are involved. Most importantly is an anti-Sampras explanation. Sampras may have been dominant on grass, but his body, especially late in his career, was a bit fragile. He had the kind of game to win any one Slam, but he might have to give up regular titles to achieve it. Toward the end, it seemed he focused on reaching the Wimbledon final and the US Open final and pretty much nothing else.
To that end, he began to sacrifice the French Open. He would lose early. I think the appeal of the career Slam was good for a while, but the one year he went deep (1996), he didn't win Wimbledon, so I think he opted not to try to win the French and keep his energy high to win Wimbledon.
For Rafa, it's the opposite. He puts all his energy in the clay season and hopes he has leftover energy for Wimbledon. When he was young, he had this energy, but he continues to go through a grueling schedule in clay, and while it paid off this year with a French title and one of his best clay seasons yet, it cost him last year with an injury at the French and having to skip Wimbledon.
I suspect part of Rafa's results at Wimbledon has been his efforts on clay, leaving him less able to stand the rigors of Wimbledon and being more vulnerable than ever to big hitting players. This year did seem different however. He wasn't hurt like last year. He seemed pretty confident. Was he as good as he was 5 years ago? Probably not.
Still, of the "big 4", he played the closest match, and really only got edged out by a veteran that played clutch tennis. Yes, Rafa kinda got in a hole early on by dropping the first two sets, so psychologically or physically, he's still a bit vulnerable on grass, but he still came back to win two sets, and was really close. Now, would he have beaten Cilic? In hindsight, maybe not. Even though he was the earliest of the "big 4" to lose, behind Federer, he seemed the most likely to go deep.
Federer came into Wimbledon looking good. Yes, he lost to Haas in Stuttgart, but he won Halle, and beat Zverev, so again, the decision to skip the clay to increase his chances at Wimbledon look prescient. Federer had never needed long breaks before, and it seemed a bit odd to do so, like it was the beginning of the end, but now it's looking like genius.
So, really, we started Wimbledon thinking Federer is the huge favorite, and we have to wait and see on everyone else in the "big 4". Now, some were optimistic about the other top contenders, most notably, a chance for Wawrinka to complete the career Slam, but that fizzled almost immediately. What was surprising was a similar big stroker in Thiem did make it through a few rounds, but he doesn't take chances nor has the ups and downs of a Wawrinka.
Here's another surprise. Tomas Berdych. He's in the semis of Wimbledon. And the key? He was there a year ago.
Berdych is one of a few players that used to be stalwarts of the top ten. Not good enough to be in the "big 4", but good enough to stay in the top ten for years. The other players in this group would be Ferrer and Tsonga. These three guys found ways to stay top ten strong.
Berdych had been with a little known coach, Tomas Krupa, and after a while, felt his chances at a Slam were slipping, so he went coach hunting. He really wanted to work with Lendl, but for whatever reason, Lendl didn't want to work with Berdych, but he did recommend Dani Vallverdu.
Vallverdu was someone that had played on tour, but more importantly, was there with Andy Murray when he was young in the Sanchez-Casals academy in Spain, and became the designated hitting partner of Andy Murray.
When Lendl split with Murray a few years ago, Murray eventually selected Amelie Mauresmo who was a controversial choice, to say the least. Those who disdain women's tennis asked what a woman knows about men's pro tennis, but had little to say about Uncle Toni's knowledge of the men's pro game.
Murray ultimately sided with Mauresmo and jettisoned most of his team, and Vallverdu was one of the victims. Vallverdu went on to partner with Berdych and that went OK for a while (he upset Nadal at the Australian Open in 2015), but fizzled when Berdych lost to Goffin love and love.
Berdych then paired up with Ivanisevic, who had split with Cilic after he worked with Cilic and Cilic won the US Open. They recently split, and Berdych went with a Czech player named Martin Stepanek.
Anyway, I had completely forgotten that Berdych reached the Wimbledon semis last year. In my mind, his game was like Tsonga or Ferrer. He had slipped, and now was going through the motions. But apparently, he's still fighting.
Before I talk about Federer, I want to talk injuries. Some feel that if you're injured, you shouldn't play, but of course, in many sports, you do
play. I recall hearing about basketball player, Derrick Rose. He was a star player, but sat out for something like 2 years due to injuries. I think fans believe that maybe if you're that good, you need to play in pain, and maybe you're faking it.
So, now that a player is hurt, people say they should rest and not play, but there are reasons why maybe they should. In fact, lots of players have managed pain to win titles. Andre Agassi won his only French title when Gilbert infamously said "You can't win if you don't play" to Andre, so Andre eventually relented, and he's probably happy he did because he did something Sampras didn't do, which was win the career Slam. Ironically, he did it on the surface everyone thought he'd win first, the French.
Nishikori was also hurt in his run to the 2014 US Open final, but Chang convinced him to play, and he stuck through two grueling 5-setters to pull off a huge upset of Djokovic. Heck, even Federer was hurt last year, but found a way to beat Cilic, but not Raonic. Remember he took off 6 months afterwards. The point is, Wimbledon is huge, and players play through pain. Fans may not be happy that players may be risking their health, but players in sports are always risking their health. It's part of the game.
OK, back to Federer. Now that Rafa and Novak and Andy are out, it seems like a cakewalk. Except Federer has seen this script before. US Open 2014 where Nishikori upset Djokovic in the first semi, and all Federer has to do is beat Cilic who had shown promise a few years ago, but wasn't expected to bother Federer. Only Cilic did bother Federer. Or 2009 US Open when Federer played del Potro. Yes, del Potro was dangerous, but Federer was only a few years removed from his glory years.
Let's look at Federer's potential opponents. First up is Tomas Berdych.
As mentioned before, Berdych was a top ten player for many years, but as he's aged, and as coaches have changed, Berdych's ranking has slipped, but he's kept at his game, and grass seems to be his best surface.
Berdych had a few years where he gave Federer all sorts of trouble. Most of these occurred from 2010-2013 where he beat Federer 5 times. But otherwise, Federer has had a huge head to head lead, 18-6. Not as dominant as Djokovic 25-2, but then it's Berdych in the semis, not Djokovic. The biggest problem for Berdych against Federer is that Federer has won their last 7 meetings, and unlike Novak, Fed is not only healthy, but playing some of his best tennis.
Even so, because of past history, it's not totally forgone that Berdych could make Federer work for it.
Federer's biggest challenge to the title most likely resides in Cilic. History shows Federer lost to Raonic in last year's Wimbledon, but maybe the reason he lost is because Cilic challenged him in an earlier round. /tennis
used to claim Cilic was the worst Slam winner, mostly because /tennis
has a really short memory (thus leading to claims that Andy Murray was the worst number 1 ever, which is only helped by Novak being a worse number 2).
I remember back in 2010 or so when people actually touted Marin Cilic as a better player than del Potro. Few expected del Potro to get hurt and now barely able to stay on tour without numerous breaks to recover. His story is truly a sad one. Cilic gave Murray difficulties in the Australian Open back in 2010, then kinda faded, then kinda got banned.
It's interesting we're talking Cilic and not a next-gen player (and Berdych and Querrey). I think Wimbledon is rewarding players who have been around a while. Anyway, all of a sudden, with a decent grass season, Ivanisevic, who predicted Cilic was third favorite (behind Federer and...Nadal/Djokovic?) isn't looking too shabby. Right now, Cilic is the second favorite based on form. Yes, Berdych has the better pedigree, better history, but Cilic has a Slam win too, and has played better recently.
Let's get to Sam Querrey. One interesting common aspect of all players left besides Roger is their height. Cilic is 6'6". So is Querrey. Tomas Berdych is 6'5". All fit the profile of the modern men's player. They are tall and hard hitting. 40 years ago, these players would be serve and volleyers, and yet they're quick enough to play baseline.
Querrey and Donald Young have a history. They played in Kalamazoo, Michigan (yes, it's a real place) in 2005 with Young coming on top as the winner. Young had been a top rated junior, up there with, you guessed it, Marin Cilic. But Cilic and Querrey had something Young didn't have, which is height.
Querrey's dad is an ex-baseball player who regretted going to college and not turning pro. Querrey decided to turn pro, had early success, reached the top 20, won a few titles, and for a while, was the second best American behind Andy Roddick. Despite his upset win over Djokovic last year, Querrey hasn't been all that great at Slams.
That upset plus another win lead to Querrey's only quarterfinal at a Slam. Querrey has rarely been to the fourth round of a Slam. His big strengths have been his big serve and forehand, but it was John Isner with a seemingly more restricted game that has had better success. Isner's serve is just bigger, and he wins tiebreaks.
Querrey has been seen as a laid back Californian without the fire in his belly to win. He has power, and certainly better speed than Isner, but he lacks the kind of magic that makes the top players who they are. He lacks the retrieving skill of a Nadal or Murray or Djokovic. He lacks the magic of Federer. Even so, a player like Robin Soderling or Stan Wawrinka who play the game like blunt trauma weapons, show that you don't need huge speed or genius to win at the game.
Right now, if you had to list who has the best chance to win, you'd say Federer, Cilic, Berydch, and Querrey. And Querrey ought to be the worst by far, except he might not be. Maybe he hasn't won all the close matches. He's 4-0 down to Cilic, but 2 of the losses were at Wimbledon, and both went to 5 sets. He knows he can hang with Cilic. If he had a disappointing loss to Tsonga in 2014 Wimbledon, losing 14-12 in the fifth, his loss to Cilic in 2012, 17-15 in the fifth, must have been just as bad. And, Querrey found his way to victory over Tsonga.
Cilic will be favored, of course. He has the better head to head. He's only played one 5-setter while Querrey is on his third 5-setter. The only plus for Querrey was the 5-setter against Murray was pretty lopsided in sets 4 and 5. Still, Muller came into his match off one lengthy five setter, and while he managed to push the match to a 5-setter, Cilic was the winner.
Still, Querrey has some hope to believe that he has the game to compete with Cilic, so while Cilic is favored, Querrey could
give him trouble and yes, he could
So, this Wimbledon is becoming a bit like the 2009 French Open. Back then, Djokovic and Nadal were the two big contenders for the title, and both had lost early. This left Federer the favorite to win the one Slam he lacked, but the pressure lead to two five-setters, one against Haas, where he had to fend off match point, and one against del Potro, before he beat Soderling in the final.
So, I think there are two surprises this Wimbledon. First, the big 4 remains a bit fragile outside of Federer who took a seemingly risky move by skipping the clay season, but now seems like genius for doing so, and second, the remaining semifinalists aren't the next-gen group but the players with more experience, who have been at this for a number of years. How much things have changed in two years.
On to the semifinals!
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2016.05.16 01:33 dropshot Notes on Rome ATP Final
Happy birthday, Andy Murray, you finally won one.
Murray has always found Djokovic difficult to play against. Despite being a week older than his Serbian rival, it was Djokovic that matured faster. He rose to prominence in 2007. He had a respectable run in the Australian Open that year, making it to the fourth round as the 14th seed. He reached the semis at both the French and Wimbledon that year. Then, he made his first finals at the US Open, losing to Federer in the finals, and broke through with his first Slam in 2008 at the Australian Open where he met surprise finalist, Jo Wilfried Tsonga.
Despite such a heady start, Djokovic would not reach another Slam final until more than 2 years later when he made the 2010 US Open final after finally managing to beat Federer at the US Open (they would meet every year at the Open from 2007 to 2011), and would not win a Slam again until 2011 Australian Open in his first "big" year.
Djokovic would win their first 4 matches, before Murray won a few during 2008, which was Murray's big year (the year he also
reached a Slam final, in fact, the US Open the following year, losing as well, to Roger Federer). Murray would split matches with Djokovic during the start of the Lendl era, but by 2012, Djokovic would pretty much dominate the rivalry.
For the most part, Murray has had some assists in winning the three biggest titles in his career. The 2012 US Open was helped a bit by the windy conditions that nearly left Djokovic out of the tournament when he played David Ferrer in the semis (the match was delayed, and played under much calmer conditions, and Djokovic quickly took control).
The 2012 Olympics was also a match that Murray won over Djokovic in the semis in a close two setter that was a big edgy (and Murray won the final benefiting from a lengthy semifinal that went 19-17 to Federer over del Potro). del Potro also helped by pushing Djokovic in the 2013 Wimbledon semifinal to a 5-setter, and although that match was far shorter than the 2012 Australian Open final (and semi) where Djokovic played a 5 hour semi to beat Murray, followed by a 6 hour final to beat Nadal, at least, the final was played in the evening, without sun, while Wimbledon is played in the mid afternoon.
Murray's success (or lack thereof) last arrived at Wimbledon 2013. He would not beat Djokovic until Montreal in 2015, a period that included 12 victories for Djokovic. Shortly after his US Open loss in 2013 where he failed to defend his title, Murray opted for back surgery, and didn't play the rest of the year.
He would return the following year and made a surprising run to the Australian Open quarterfinals (losing to Federer), but otherwise struggle that season trying to recover from surgery. He would end 2014 playing 6 weeks in a row trying to qualify for London, and get pummeled by Federer in the round robins at London.
In 2014, Murray and Lendl would go their separate ways, and Murray would start working with Amelie Mauresmo. This choice of coach caused ripples in his own team which eventually lead to the departure of Jez Green (his physio) and Dani Vallverdu (listed as a hitting partner) to Tomas Berdych's team when Berdych failed to convince fellow Czech, Ivan Lendl to coach him.
Murray gets criticized for working with Mauresmo, mostly sexist fans who believe a woman can't understand the men's game, even as Mauresmo once coached Michael Llodra. Heck, Connors credits both mother and grandmother with helping form his game, and they weren't exactly burning up the women's tour.
Where Murray succeeded with Mauresmo was his success on clay. Although Murray trained at Sanchez-Casals as a teen, he struggled on clay as a pro. Up until last year, he had never reached a final on clay, though he came close back in 2011 when he was on the verge of upsetting Djokovic's winning streak. Murray was down a break in the third set at Rome, but managed to break for the lead at 5-4. But he failed to serve it out, and Djokovic would take his win streak to the French Open.
So, in a way, there was no particular reason that Murray shouldn't play better on clay, but as Murray has learned over the years, it helps to be aggressive on clay. Five years ago, he tried to play his passive style on clay with little success.
If Murray was going to win over Djokovic, despite never having beaten Djokovic on clay, this was the day to do it. Djokovic had to play two tough matches to reach the finals. He beat Nadal in straight sets in a match that went over 2 hours. He was also pushed to a third set tiebreak against Nishikori in a night match where he had a break lead in the third with chances for a double break.
Even though Djokovic's new diet has lead to him to handle lengthy matches much better than in the past, such wins tend to be tiring. Even Murray admitted that it's difficult for a player to come back after playing a long evening match.
Murray's key to winning the match was doing a better job of holding serve. The pattern of his losses are generally the same. Murray loses serve easily after playing very aggressively, but making too many errors. Murray yields the first set. Murray scrambles trying to win another set.
It happened in the Australian Open this year. It also happened in Madrid just last week. In both matches, Murray struggled on his second serve winning about 35%, and he also struggled a bit on first serve.
Another improvement in Murray's game, perhaps attributable to Mauresmo, or certainly to his own study of his second serve technique, is his improved pace. Although it has improved, Djokovic still found ways to win on his second serve.
Murray generally weathers the storm of a poor first serve percentage by doing a good job of winning points on his second serve. Few opponents seem able to make him pay for his second serve, but Djokovic is one of those few.
Murray basically won the match by doing a much better job of first and second serves. In particular, Murray won nearly 50% on his second serve, which is significantly better than when they played last week. Murray was also able to make inroads on Djokovic's first serve, keeping him under 70%.
Murray was able to do the same thing in both sets, which was to get an early break, then keep holding serve. He was assisted a bit by an irritated Djokovic who wasn't thrilled with the weather nor Carlos Bernardes. Murray made Djokovic work hard in the rallies and Djokovic seemed to rely on errant drop shots.
Meanwhile, in the past 2 weeks, Murray has used the drop shot far more than he normally does. In effect, it's become his SABR, but while the novelty of Federer's sneak attack has faded, this shot seems like something Murray will keep on his clay repertoire. It also seems others are likely to use more drop shots in their game.
Murray started off rather dismally on first serve, serving in the mid 30 percent, but eventually finished the match at nearly 70%. This was another area where Murray had a nice edge. Djokovic's own first serve percentage, which normally is rather high, was under 60%.
It's interesting to contrast the way Murray plays Djokovic to the way Nishikori plays. Nishikori is more of an attacking player, and he's willing to take more chances, to play behind his opponents, to aim closer to the lines. For example, when Djokovic pulls Nishikori wide off his backhand, Nishikori is more willing to hit a shot down the line. For years, Murray wouldn't hit that shot, and he's still a bit reluctant to do it, preferring to hit back crosscourt most of the times.
But Murray, as he did in Madrid, used some new wrinkles, in particular, occasionally surprising Djokovic by hitting a backhand inside out back up the line instead of going his usual crosscourt. At one point, Djokovic was left stranded in the center of the court staring at that shot and expecting the crosscourt shot.
Unlike Nishikori, Murray again preferred to hit shots more in the center part of the court or at least to Djokovic's backhand, presumably to cut off angles that Djokovic could create with his forehand.
Murray also used a high topspin crosscourt if Djokovic hit a shot down the line with his backhand, or if he had more time, put an sharp angle on the forehand. When Murray has time to set up, he prefers hitting a hard short crosscourt forehand to the Djokovic forehand. He struggles a bit more hitting that shot hard to the Djokovic backhand down the line, though he did also attempt that shot.
This match also hinged on Murray doing something Murray generally does well against everyone else which is saving break points, including one serve-and-volley point late in the match.
The match ended on a spectacular point with Djokovic hitting a hard shot down the line and coming in while Murray floated a backhand that barely crossed the net near the ad sideline. Djokovic leaned in for a hard crosscourt backhand while Murray anticipated it, heading for the wall and hitting into the middle back of the court, to break Djokovic a second time, and a 6-3, 6-3 win.
This is the point that Murray hit behind Djokovic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aI6vxqbhZkw
Djokovic played the down the line backhand a bit more conservatively today (not as close to the sideline) and that gave Murray better chances to retrieve shots.
Murray took a realistic view of the win, realizing that he can play on the surface, but that even if he plays great, Djokovic can still play greater.
With this win, Murray has actually had a more solid clay season than a hard court season. Murray lost in Indian Wells and Miami in the third round, but reached the semis of Monte Carlo (losing to Rafa in 3 sets), the finals of Madrid (losing to Novak in 3 sets), and winning Rome.
Although he is far behind the big 3 in Masters 1000 titles, he's only missing 3 titles to win the career Masters 1000: Indian Wells (which he's generally done poorly at), Monte Carlo (mostly because Rafa wins this all the time), and Paris, and it seems like he can win at least 2 of these titles.
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2016.03.15 16:34 dropshot Comments about ATP scores at BNP Paribas Open so far!
I've been fairly impressed by the younger players so far. I watched Bjorn Fratangelo for the first time play Djokovic. Fratangelo was able to keep the ball fairly deep. That seemed to throw Djokovic off his game. When Djokovic is at his best, he makes you hit a lot of shots, esp. when you're on offense.
I've had Fratangelo on my Twitter follow for a while and never quite knew who he was. I'm guessing some other players said to follow him, so I did. All I knew about him was that he was named after Borg (I think) and that he was a baseliner and liked clay.
Like many of the youth movement, Fratangelo has a decent backhand. When you look at players like Isner and Querrey, the Americans with a big serve and a big forehand and a backhand that just neutral, you can see the contrast with them and the youth group, all of whom have backhands that can be a bit more offensive. This is true of Kyrgios, Coric, Thiem, Zverev, and Fratangelo.
It's hard for me to tell, but I feel Fratangelo's groundies are powerful enough that he should move up the rankings. He suffers where most new players suffer, and that's consistency. They can hit a lot of shots, but they still have a tough time outlasting their opponents, and occasionally, they toss in mistakes.
Djokovic eventually began defending better and making it tough for Fratangelo to win points as easily as he did.
I watched two matches with David Goffin. The first was a three setter against Tiafoe. The second was a three setter against Pella. I hadn't seen Tiafoe play, but his game reminds me a bit of Kyrgios. Tiafoe is emotionally more stable than Kyrgios (which isn't saying much). He doesn't have the serve Kyrgios has nor his bravado, but he seems confident enough. He's got good power on his forehand, and moves fairly well.
Goffin struggled a bit to deal with the power, and made a few mistakes of his own, but overall, Goffin is much more polished. He understands how to use the height of the ball, hitting high deep crosscourts to prevent Tiafoe from attacking. Goffin may seem slight, but a guy doesn't get into the top 20 without being able to handle power.
Goffin is, to me, more exciting to watch than Ferrer. Goffin likes to take the ball up the line, and will sometimes hit an inside out backhand for variety. He can attack second serves. He's emotionally very steady, rarely getting upset.
He also played Pella. Pella made the finals of Rio a few weeks ago, and gave Cuevas a tough time. He did beat Thiem in the semifinals, and Thiem has been playing as well as anyone lately. Still, Goffin seems more assured on hard courts than Pella and was playing well in the third set to win the match. Oh yes, Pella played Cuevas in the previous round and obviously won. He was pushed to 3 sets by Kyle Edmund in the first round.
Speaking of Thiem, I figured with playing so much, he'd be tired by now, but he still keeps plugging away. He's won on both clay and hard courts in recent weeks. I didn't see his match against Kovalik, a guy I've never heard of. Thiem won in two tiebreaks and has Jack Sock up next. Both guys are probably similar in court preferences, both liking clay, with hard courts as their second preferred surface.
If Thiem is the current best youngster, then Zverev might be second or third (Kyrgios would be in the mix too). Zverev has already beaten a veteran in Ivan Dodig, and beaten the now inconsistent Dimitrov, who is struggling with his backhand and consistency overall. You just feel that other players can play offensive and Dimitrov can't take control of the point like Federer can. Federer has just that much more variety, but also knows when to play a bit more conservative so he doesn't make too many errors.
Zverev faces Simon next. Zverev already beat Simon earlier in the year in Rotterdam. That match went to a third set. This might be an interesting match. Simon is a crafty player. You would think, after playing Zverev once, he'll have a better handle on how to play him. Still, Simon can occasionally be overpowered and Zverev is one of the more powerful hitters. Still, I expect Simon to prevail.
I also watched Coric against Berdych. Berdych struggled last year, despite having a good year overall. In particular, Berdych didn't do as well in Slams as he normally does. He's often making it deep, e.g., a quarterfinal, and threatening to make a semifinal. Last year, he did reach the semis of the Australian Open (with a victory over Nadal), but then only made the fourth round in the other 3 Slams.
Even so, Berdych has the kind of game that makes him a nightmare for most pros except those at the very top. He's not super speedy (quick enough, but not Djokovic or Nadal) so he relies on his huge forehand which he can hit inside out or inside in. His backhand is also good enough to both play defense, and attack if need be.
And, for a set and a half, he was using this power to overwhelm Coric who couldn't hold serve for about a set and a half. Coric is pretty good off the ground. He's not a hugely attacking player. He's good off the ground, but Berdych has improved too, and can stay in longer rallies.
The commentators at Tennis Channel said that Coric was likely the best of the young players, at least, when it comes to competitiveness and professional attitude. Even so, Thiem has clearly had a better record so far. I think playing Berdych was good for him because if he's to take that next step, he needs to handle a power player like Berdych.
Oh, that match was interesting because it was the ex-Murray gang. Berdych is coached by Dani Vallverdu who used to be hitting partner for Murray. He also has Jez Green as a physio. Murray's team broke up due to Mauresmo being hired. His team didn't seem happy with that choice, and Murray went with Mauresmo.
Murray's previous coach (prior to Lendl) was Miles Maclagan, and he's coached players like Baghdatis (I think). He currently coaches Coric. Announcers said they are looking to develop more weapons for Coric.
Speaking of Murray, he had a tough time against Delbonis. Part of it was dealing with Delbonis's really high serve. Some may recall that Delbonis beat Federer that year he lost early at Wimbledon to Stakhovsky. Federer went to play Hamburg with his new large racquet back in 2013. Delbonis won in two tiebreaks.
Delbonis appeared to be the more aggressive of the two, and hit numerous drop shots to Murray. Murray dropped the first set, but won the second, and was up a break in the third before Delbonis broke back and won in a tiebreak. It could be, after Murray played Davis Cup, esp. a long match against Nishikori, that he didn't want to exert himself at Indian Wells. To me, I feel Murray tends to "tank" matches, but he does so by keeping the match pretty close, and showing he could have won it, rather than something outright like Tomic might do.
Although Murray has played well for a few weeks at a time, I feel that he does his best when he focuses on Slams and doesn't pay as much attention to Masters 1000 events (he did mention last year that he was going to put more of a premium on those events, but it may have cost him a good performance at the US Open).
One guy I haven't seen much is Stan Wawrinka. Either his matches have been on so late that I don't see it (like it was last night), or they are showing a different match and the match finishes quickly. Wawrinka has had a pretty solid year. He won Chennai once again (the word is, he may not go back). He won Dubai (presumably as a sub for Federer). Since his breakout year in 2014, he's tried to play steadier tennis, and played fairly steady throughout 2015. Wawrinka, who has a risky style of play, tends to play up and down. I think Berdych wishes his highest highs matched Wawrinka, because both are somewhat similar in playing style (that is, using power to win).
Querrey has been having a solid year. After a few years of subpar play, he is getting better results these days. He's likely the underdog to Tsonga who hasn't played that well in about a year. Querrey has the kind of power to play Tsonga but Tsonga has the experience and a bit of speed.
We'll get a better sense of how Djokovic is doing. He'll play Kohlschreiber next who is a solid player with a decent serve and backhand. He could face Lopez after that. He had to retire against Lopez due to problems with his eye.
I think everyone is looking forward to Nadal vs. Verdasco. The two played doubles together in a fun match against the Bryan brothers. Verdasco, as many recall, beat Nadal at the Australian Open. This would be important for Nadal to win to show he's getting back in shape.
Anyway, still a lot more tournament to go!
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