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Is Cilic the “Del Potro” of 2010?

Marin Cilic Celebrates in Beijing (Getty Images)

Marin Cilic Celebrates in Beijing (Getty Images)

With his impressive 6-1, 6-3 blowout of Rafael Nadal in the semifinals of the China Open, Marin Cilic, who I predicted could make a run in the tourney, has found himself in the final against Novak Djokovic.

Cilic, who won two events earlier in the spring, has had an up and down year but had suddenly found his game and confidence, especially against the very elite players. This was the same guy who was down two sets to love against Jesse Levine in the second round of the U.S. Open, but then pulled that out in five sets and then went on to thump a lazy Andy Murray in the next round.

Cilic has always had the big game, but like Juan Martin Del Potro, it is more about confidence and belief. If Cilic can continue this, he could definitely find himself in the top ten or even top five by next year.

As for Nadal he can look forward to Shanghai and London to perhaps salvage his year. Strange to be saying that after he started the year winning Australia and cementing the number one ranking.

Let me know what you think.

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Day 12 Schedule – Is it fixed for Serena?

I just did a quick glance at the schedule for Day 12 at the U.S. Open and had to read it twice to make sure. The very first match on Ashe at 12:30pm is the Clijsters/Serena semifinal. That is followed by the continuation of the Nadal/Gonzalez quarterfinal followed by the Wozniacki/Wickmayer semi and then the Men’s Doubles’ Final.

Is this right?

The weather forecast for tomorrow is 90% rain so it’s very likely that the only “big” match that will get played tomorrow (and televised on CBS, very important) will be Clijsters/Serena.

Interesting.

It gets more interesting when you go through the schedule and find the other women’s doubles semifinal between world number ones Black/Huber against the third seeds Stosur/Stubbs on Court 11. Yet Serena/Venus played their doubles semi today on Ashe. Why couldn’t the other women’s doubles semi get on at least the Grandstand court?

I understand that the U.S. Open will do everything it can to get every match played but it’s very obvious that the heavy hand of CBS is making sure Serena makes it to Saturday night’s primetime event. I don’t have a problem with it per se but if you look at it from Nadal’s viewpoint, he will now have to play potentially three days in a row to win the title.

What are your thoughts?

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ATP Player Mug Shots

This has intrigued me for sometime but has anyone noticed on the ATP World Tour site that the majority of the player photos look like mug shots? None of the top players are smiling.

No one.

It’s interesting because when you scroll through and look at some top fifty players, some smile, some do not. Gael Monfils is all smiles. Even John Isner. But Sam Querrey? Nope. Looks like a driver’s license photo.

What’s up with this? Did the ATP tell players that they needed to look dead serious so that it looks like every man is ready to go to war with the next player ala a mixed marital arts event?

In contrast, the ladies of the WTA all have their “glamour shots” going on, all smiles and makeup.

What do you think?

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Federer Cruises to Cincy Win

Roger Federer claimed his second Masters event of the year and sixteenth overall by defeating Novak Djokovic 6-1, 7-5 in the finals of the Western and Southern Financial Group Masters in Cincinnati.

In the first set, Djokovic came out very flat and got into trouble early on his first service game. After surviving eight deuces, Djokovic couldn’t figure out a way to win the ad game and ended up losing his serve.

Despite only serving 47% first serves in the first set, Federer played within himself while Djokovic was forced well beyond the baseline during play. Djokovic hit too many lazy errors, especially on the backhand and the set went by quickly.

In the second set, Djokovic changed from a red shirt to a white shirt and it seemed to lift his game. At 0-1, Djokovic was able to get a break point after he guessed right on a Fed smash and hit a forehand pass. Federer saved that breaker but then on the next deuce, Djokovic ended a long rally by coming to net and hitting a stab volley forcing Federer to hit long. Djokovic got the break when Federer hit another forehand long.

Despite going down 0-3, Federer lifted his game and was able to break back when Djokovic hit a lazy backhand long. Djokovic was successful coming to net during the match, but overall he was not aggressive enough to really press Federer at key points.

On serve at 4-5, Federer got himself into trouble on his service and faced a set point against. But Federer served an ace next point and eventually evened things at 5-5. Djokovic continued his sloppy play, including an ill-time drop shot that led to him losing serve at 5-6. Federer comfortably served out the match and the win.

Federer looked very assured all week and he clearly is now the favorite again for the U.S. Open. Djokovic did have a good tournament, beating Nadal in the semis, and should be a darkhorse contender.

Next week is the Pilot Pen event in New Haven while the U.S. Open draw will be held on Thursday. Check for more U.S. Open preview and analysis tomorrow.

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Fed catches up to Murray in Cincinnati

Roger Federer snapped a four match losing streak to Andy Murray by winning their semifinal match at the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters event 6-2, 7-6 (8).

Fed easily won the first set as Murray got off to a slow start, going down 1-4 early in the first set. Federer’s forehand was on today and he came to the net more often, especially on Murray’s second serve.

In the second set, Murray settled down while Federer resorted back to his old tactics of trying to out finesse Murray from the baseline. Eventually it got into a tiebreak.

Murray shanked a forehand to go down 0-2 early in the breaker and it appeared Fed would cruise to the win. But at 5-4, Federer missed a first serve allowing Murray the chance to attack the second serve with a return winner to get to five-all.

Then with Federer serving at six-all, Murray stopped playing when he thought Fed’s serve was well out. When the call stood, he dropped to his knees in astonished agony. The challenge replay showed the ball got half of the line, not the complete miss Murray expected.

Murray did get things to eight-all, but Fed hit an ace on his serve to get to his second match point at 9-8. Then Murray inexplicably served a double fault to lose the match.

Although Murray got his game going in the second set, he didn’t seem mentally fresh, especially in the tie-break when he let that call that didn’t go his way get to him. Federer played well, especially attacking Murray more often than in previous matches.

I expect Murray to hang on to his #2 ranking even if Nadal wins in the final, but it will be close. Nadal is a slight favorite against Djokovic who really needs to win this match to prove he is still in the mix for the Open.

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Summer Hard Courts – More Fizzle than Sizzle

Rather than do a preview of the women’s event in Toronto and the men’s event in Cincinnati, I thought it would be easier to just look at some of the highlights (and lack thereof) of the summer hard court season so far.

The Frontrunners
For the men, Sam Querrey, Juan Martin del Potro and Andy Murray have so far been the most consistent this summer. Murray just played one event, Montreal, but he won it, and I expect him to at least get to the finals of Cincinnati this week.

For the women, Flavia Pennetta won L.A. and has played well in other events. Jelena Jankovic surprised a few people by winning Cincinnati. Elena Dementieva has also been consistent despite some tough loses in the semis of both Stanford and Cincinnati.

Shaking off the rust

Most of the top players have looked downright shaky for the summer. Roger Federer failed to close out his match against Tsonga in Montreal. Serena Williams has played spotty at best. Dinara Safina, usually very consistent in getting to the semifinals of any event she plays, has only gotten to one final this summer. Even Andy Roddick, who got to the finals of D.C. and semis at Montreal needs to get into an extra gear.

Predictions this week
For the ladies in Toronto, the event is still wide open with Safina, Venus, and Kuznetsova all losing early. A key match is wildcard Kim Clijsters playing Jelena Jankovic. If Clijsters wins, look for her to do very well at the Open. She could beat Serena should they meet, but I’m sure Serena would want to send a message that she’s still the player to beat
Winner – S. Williams.

For the guys in Cinncinati, a key match will be Andy Murray v. Roger Federer if they both make it to the semis. If Murray can win that match, which I think he can, Federer will have a lot to worry about before the Open. On the other side of the draw, if Nadal can get to the finals, he should be in pretty good shape for the Open.

Winner – A. Murray

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Is J.J Back? Will Safina Ever Win a Major?

I didn’t watch yesterday’s women’s final in Cincinnati but the result didn’t surprise. For some reason, I just saw Jelena Jankovic pulling out a win. She defeated Dinara Safina 6-4, 6-2.

J.J. played well but in the video highlights it didn’t look like Safina helped her cause with another lackluster performance in a big final. J.J did well to win her match with such ease after the long slugfest she had against Elena Dementieva the night before in the semis.

What does all this mean for the U.S. Open? Probably not much. The ladies make their way to Toronto while the guys head down to Cincinnati. Another reason they should combine both these tournaments if just to give the fans more players for their money.

Here’s a link to J.J. talking about the match.

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