Recap of the American Hardcourt leg of Men’s Tennis.
Djokovic Dominates American Hardcourt Swing
It was an interesting March for men’s tennis as familiar names made the finals (Fed, Djok, Rafa) and some unfamiliar youngsters made splashes in the semis and quarters. One huge bummer was the Miami semifinal debacle, where both Kei Nishikori and Tomas Berdych withdrew. Don’t know when or if that’s ever happened before at Masters 1000 event, but it’s a major blow for a sport that needs all the positive publicity it can get. At least it led to the 40th installment of the Djoker/Nadal rivalry. A look below at the big stories from the Southern California desert and sunny South Florida.
- Djoker Sits Atop The Game – After disappointments in Australia and Dubai, Djoker came to Indian Wells looking for confidence and at least his first trip to a final in 2014. He left with the trophy, after overcoming some shaky moments in both the semis and the final vs. Fed, losing the first set and then failing to serve it out in the 3rd, eventually winning a championship-deciding tiebreaker 7-3. In Miami, he was much sharper, improving as the tourney went on even though he had two walkovers (K-Nish and F. Mayer earlier). Facing Rafa in the final, he protected a break point in the first game of the match, and then proceeded to dominate his Spanish rival, who played well, but not close to Djoker’s nearly flawless level. The epic match point was a microcosm for the match, a 28-ball rally where Novak displayed his phenomenal defense, shotmaking brilliance, and refusal to err on the big points.
Monte Carlo in a few weeks and the rest of the French tuneup season will be fun watch, as Djoker looks to finally break through in Paris, coming so close up a break in the 5th set vs. Rafa last year.
- Dolgopolov (#22), Nishikori (#18) – Big Waves from The Little Guys – Both these guys pack as much power as possible from smaller statures, but in very different ways. K-Nish uses textbook, picture-perfect footwork and tremendous racquet head speed to hit powerful, heavy topspin groundies…aggressively whenever possible. He beat Fed in the Miami QFs before pulling out of his SF with Djokovic with a groin injury. Dolgop made the semis of I.W., losing to Fed, and had an epic 3rd round win over Nadal to get there. He was down 4-2 in the breaker, but proceeded to win the next 3 pts, eventually taking it after a presumed ace for match point was reviewed to be out by a millimeter. He hit the 2nd serve after a long delay, and won anyway in what was the match of the tournament. He also made the QFs in Miami, losing to Berdych in straight sets. He hasn’t changed his eclectic, unique, aggressive style at all, but has been more consistent and a bit smarter on his shot selection.
- Tsonga (#12), Ferrer (#6) Mediocrity Continues – Tsonga has one Top 20 win all year – #19 G Simon very early in the year – and Simon is now out of the Top 20 at #27. Jo Willie lost immediately (2nd round) in the desert to his countryman Benneteau 4 & 4, and then in the 4th at Miami to Murray 4 & 1. He turns 29 this month, and it’s possible we’ve seen the best from him, and we won’t see it much more going forward. You can definitely say the same for David Ferrer, who turns 32 today April 2nd, and has notched just one Top 15 win all year – #14 Fognini in the Buenos Aires final in Feb. Father Time has come knocking on the 5’10″ scrapper, relying on a tough, physical game, utilizing fast twitch speed & reflexes. That just doesn’t last too long after 30. Both Dolgop and K-Nish (11-9 in a 3rd set breaker in Mia) have wins over David this year.
- Names on the Rise – Ernests Gulbis (#23) continued his strong season, making the QFs before bowing out to Isner in the desert, but then the crafty vet Benneteau took him 7-5 in the 3rd in his only Miami match. Will do damage on the clay. Roberto Bautista Agut (#44) – Yet another Spaniard, at a career-high ranking, added to his strong 2014 resume with a win over Berdych at I.W. on his way to the 4th round, then took out a disappointing Jerzy Janowicz in the 2nd round of Miami. Dominic Thiem (#79) – also at a career-high, qualied in both events and went 3-2 over the two events, beating Simon and Rosol along the way. He’s a nice player, just 20 yrs old, very athletic and a one-handed BH. Keep an eye on him, he’s Top 40 talent.
- USA – One Trick Pony – Only one American is in the top 60 – Isner, way up at a career-best #9 after making the SFs at I.W. and 4th Rnd at Miami. The #2 ranked American is now Bradley Klahn at #65, just ahead of Donald Young (#71) and Sam Querrey (#74). Jack Sock (#92) and Steve Johnson (#98) complete the list of USA Top 100′s.
This is a repost from Speedburner on Sports – Todd’s Tennis Takes.