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Ricky Dimon

  • U.S. Open preview part 2: Draw analysis

    2009-08-28 03:33:51

    This is the second of Ricky's five-part U.S. Open preview series, running through Sunday.

    Part 1: Draw preview
    Part 2: Draw analysis
    Part 3: Top 25 contenders
    Part 4: Weekly "Approach Shots"
    Part 5: Full tournament predictions

     

    The question on everyone’s mind heading into Thursday afternoon’s U.S. Open draw ceremony was whether or not Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal would be in the same half.


    Question answered: they aren’t.

    Nadal, seeded third, is on Andy Murray’s side, while Novak Djokovic is in Federer’s half. That, of course, is the big news, but now let’s sort out the remainder of the bracket.

     

    Federer’s Quarter

     

    In my French Open draw analysis, I mentioned that Federer’s quarter was “the weakest quarter of a Grand Slam draw I have ever seen. Ever.” Well, I think Federer’s section at this year’s U.S. Open has surpassed even his French Open draw in terms of ease.

     

    The seven seeds in addition to Federer are Nikolay Davydenko, Robin Soderling, Tommy Robredo, James Blake, Sam Querrey, Paul-Henri Mathieu, and Lleyton Hewitt. Davydenko is the weakest of the top eight seeds, Soderling (elbow) and Hewitt (knee) have been injured, Blake and Robredo are in the midst of massive slumps, and Mathieu simply isn’t dangerous. The only formidable potential opponents for Federer are Davydenko and Querrey (who won the U.S. Open Series), but the top-ranked Swiss could not meet either one until the quarterfinals.

     

    Best First-Round Matchup — (26) Paul-Henri Mathieu vs. Mikhail Youzhny. A former Top 10 player, Youzhny plummeted in the rankings throughout 2008 and currently registers at 59th in the world. However, he has actually been playing pretty well this spring and summer, so Mathieu won’t overlook him. The Frenchman, meanwhile, has been solid but unspectacular in 2009 and he made it to the Hamburg final earlier this summer. Youzhny and Mathieu have played each other twice already this season and both encounters were entertaining; Youzhny prevailed in three sets in Munich and Mathieu got revenge in two tiebreakers on the clay courts of Stuttgart. If nothing else, the shotmaking in this one will be worth the price of admission.

     

    Aside from Mathieu and Youzhny, there are few—if any—first-round matchups to write home about, although that is subject to change when the qualifiers get placed in the draw. In other words, Federer excluded, this section of the draw has no redeeming qualities.

     

    What to Watch For — Whether or not any of the potential challengers put on displays during the first week of the tournament that would suggest they have any chance against Federer. If Hewitt and Soderling are 100 percent, they have the capability of at least giving the world No. 1 a test. Querrey and Davydenko both have the talent to be problematic for Federer, but they will have to be at the very top of their games.

    Djokovic’s Quarter

     

    All signs point to a rematch of last year’s memorable quarterfinal between Djokovic and Andy Roddick. In 2008, of course, their showdown was more memorable for what transpired off the court rather than what took place on the court, although the match itself was actually quite good. With both men playing well (Roddick consistently, Djokovic at least in Cincinnati), another Djokovic-Roddick encounter could feature top-notch tennis, and there is no reason to think the matchup won’t happen. Fernando Verdasco and Tommy Haas are dangerous, but both have cooled off following torrid stretches of tennis earlier in the year. Nobody wants to play John Isner, but is the big man really ready to take out Roddick in a Grand Slam? Other than Djokovic, Roddick, and a very few threats, this quarter does not have a ton to offer.

     

    Best First-Round Matchup — There are a number of intriguing first-round clashes in this section, but the best could be Simone Bolelli vs. (15) Radek Stepanek. Boelli’s talent is undeniable, but he has not put it all together this year and is ranked just 67th in the world. Stepanek, however, has been dealing with a knee injury during this hard-court summer season and if he is just a step slow, an upset is very possible.

    Other opening-round showdowns to watch are (23) Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. Andreas Seppi, (10) Verdasco vs. Benjamin Becker, and (28) Victor Hanescu vs. Isner. Even Djokovic could have a tough match on his hands with Ivan Ljubicic, but the fourth-seeded Serb recently handled Ljubicic in Cincinnati and should be able to do the same in New York.

     

    What to Watch For — The progress of Verdasco and Haas through the early stages of the draw. Outside of Verdasco and Haas, I don’t see anyone who could derail a potential Djokovic-Roddick quarterfinal. Should Verdasco and Haas meet in the third round, the winner would most likely run into Roddick in round four. If the winner is looking good and playing with confidence (that already applies to Haas), there is a chance Djokovic-Roddick could be denied.

    Djokovic should be relatively untroubled on his way to the quarters. Potentially standing in his way in the fourth round is Philipp Kohlschreiber, who ousted Djokovic in shocking fashion at the French Open. The world No. 4 would almost certainly get revenge this time around, and you can bet it would be sweet.

     

    Nadal’s Quarter

     

    He would never admit it, but Nadal surely wanted to accomplish two things with the announcement of the draw: avoid Federer in his half and stay clear of Del Potro and Roddick in his quarter. Mission accomplished. But that’s just about all Nadal—or anyone else in this quarter—accomplished. His section, and the entire bottom half of the draw, is brutal. Other seeds in the Spaniard’s bracket include Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Fernando Gonzalez, Gael Monfils, Tomas Berdych, and David Ferrer. Before any of those difficult prospects come into play for Nadal, he has to face Richard Gasquet in the first round. Granted Gasquet is far from 100 percent as he returns from suspension, but it’s not exactly the easiest of opening matchups. If Nadal falters (and that’s a big “if” even in his current state), a host of worthy contenders will battle it out for a semifinal spot.

     

    Best First-Round Matchup — There are two matchups between countrymen that will certainly grab the attention of any tennis fan; one should actually be a great match, the other is just kind of funny. The one that could turn out to be a barnburner is (13) Monfils vs. Jeremy Chardy. Monfils has been one of the best players on tour this season when healthy, while Chardy is enjoying by far his best year ever as a professional.

     

    The other matchup of note is an all-Chilean showdown between Nicolas Massu and (11) Gonzalez. These two veterans are long-time friends and doubles partners, and they even teamed up to win Olympic gold in doubles back in 2004 (Massu also won gold in singles, while Gonzalez took home bronze in Athens). Both must have forced a chuckle when this draw came out!

     

    What to Watch For — Obviously, anything and everything that pertains to Nadal. How are his knees? How is his movement? How is he dealing with the fast hard courts that always give him trouble? Are the big hitters like Berdych and Gonzalez playing well enough to blow him off the court? The good news for Nadal is that he should have plenty of time to answer these questions. With all due respect to Gasquet, he is going to be little more than a pushover in round one, and the rest of Nadal’s draw is friendly until the second week (either Monfils or Ferrer in the fourth round).

     

    Murray’s Quarter

     

    This is—without question—the most difficult of the four quarters. Murray and Del Potro, two of the hottest players in tennis this season, are on another collision course for the quarterfinals, where they met at last year’s U.S. Open. Standing in their way, however, are imposing seeded players such as Gilles Simon (who battled Del Potro in a third-round, five-set thriller one summer ago), Marin Cilic, Stanislas Wawrinka, Juan Carlos Ferrero, and Ivo Karlovic. Even the unseeded threats in this quarter are more dangerous than in any other section of the draw. They include Juan Monaco (vs. Del Potro in round one), Jurgen Mezler, Marat Safin (vs. Mezler in round one), Chris Guccione, Fabrice Santoro, Philipp Petzschner, Feliciano Lopez, and Ernests Gulbis (vs. Murray in round one).

     

    Best First-Round Matchup — A handful of entertaining opening-round showdowns are on the menu in this quarter of the draw; perhaps none, however, will turn out to be better than (24) Ferrero vs. Santoro. The two veterans have met seven times in their careers; not a ton considering they boast a combined age of 65 and have been on the pro tour for a combined 33 years! Ironically, they have already met twice in early stages of Grand Slams this season, including a first-round clash at the Australian Open, which Santoro won in four sets. Ferrero, however, got revenge in the second round of Wimbledon, also in four sets. The Spaniard is the favorite on paper and is in outstanding form, but Santoro has enjoyed some memorable performances in New York and who knows what he has up his sleeve for a swansong?

    Like Santoro, Safin is also making what is presumably his final appearance at the U.S. Open. The 2000 champion begins one last campaign in Flushing Meadows against a tough opponent in Melzer. Other matchups to keep an eye on are Murray vs. Gulbis, Del Potro vs. Monaco, Wawrinka vs. Nicolas Lapentti, and Lopez vs. Taylor Dent.

     

    What to Watch For — Contrasts in style. This section has it all: old guys, young guns, human backboards, ball-bashers, etc. The result should be enthralling matches every step of the way, from Day 1 all the way through the quarterfinals. Opponents will try to blast Murray off the court right from the start; Gulbis in the opener, possibly Karlovic in round three, and perhaps Cilic in the fourth round. On the other hand, underdogs will attempt to make Del Potro beat himself by keeping ball after ball in play; Monaco will try that strategy in their opener, and Simon will do the same if they get to square off again in a fourth-round showdown. Will huge hitters like Del Potro, Safin, Cilic, Karlovic, Guccione, and Gulbis power their way to success, or will guile and strategy pay off for the likes of Murray, Ferrero, Monaco, and Simon?

     

    Overall

     

    Draws often come out relatively balanced, but this is not one of them. Starting with the top quarter and working your way down, it goes from borderline miserable (Federer’s quarter), to weak (Djokovic’s quarter), to difficult (Nadal’s quarter), to brutal (Murray’s quarter).

    Gripe all you want, but this is the best time of the year to be a tennis fan, and there is always reason to look on the bright side at the U.S. Open. Consider some of those reasons:

     

    If you’re a Federer fan, you’re happy he got one of the easiest draws ever.

     

    If you’re a Nadal fan, you’re happy he avoided Federer, Roddick, and Del Potro.

     

    If you’re a Djokovic fan, you’re happy that he could get another shot at Roddick (after several recent losses), and thus a chance to prove he is still part of a “Big 4.”

     

    If you’re a Roddick fan, you’re happy he landed in Djokovic’s quarter rather than, say, Federer’s or Murray’s.

     

    If you’re a Del Potro fan, you’re happy he could get another crack at Murray.

     

    And if you’re a Murray fan, well, you can at least be happy that he ended the streak of Federer and Nadal being seeded 1 and 2 at slams. Sure, the draw did not reward him for it, but it’s an accomplishment in itself.

     

    And with that, it’s time (almost) for the speculation to end and the games to begin!

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Comments

from Bob Larson tennis news:

"There were 256 seeding possibilities Federer could have faced (any of eight players in the Round of 32, any of four in the Round of Sixteen, any of four in the quarterfinal, and either of two in the semifinal). If we rank these from hardest (#3 Nadal, #5 Roddick, #13 Monfils, #25 Fish) to the easiest (#4 Djokovic, #8 Davydenko, #14 Robredo, #32 Almagro) -- Federer got #239 out of 256! In other words, more than 93% of the possible draws are harder than the one he was given. And if you consider that Robredo is actually the weakest of the seeds he could have faced in the Round of Sixteen, in practical terms it is #255 of 256. Amazing."

Only thing I don't understand is that the easiest possible matchup--officially according to seed--in the round of 16 is the No. 16 seed, not No. 14 Robredo.

RickyDimon , 8/28/09 6:02 AM


I honestly don't think Gasquet is that much of a handful for Rafa. Rafa has beaten him 6:0, and Gasquet has never even come close to posing a threat in any of those matches.

Ricky, do you seriously think that Gasquet could come on court cold from competing and beat Rafa, who admittedly was out for 10 weeks with injury, but we all saw in Cincy that he is close to his best again.

carrie , 8/28/09 9:20 AM


Nice work, Ricky!

Too bad Nalbandian is on the injured list...he's usually great a creating an upset. Couldn't agree more about Fed's draw....and all your takes /impressions.

Gasquet- happy he is cleared. Not a huge challenge for Rafa tho.

Andy Murray gets through his tough draw and he'll well deserve the trophy!

Much as I loved Fed's form in Cincy, have to ask: How in the world does he keep going on and on like the energizer bunny?!

Give Roddick a break already!

zoey234 , 8/28/09 10:05 AM


Ricky,
Do you know why they did the draw on Wednesday and announced it on Thursday, is there some kind of doctoring going on?

carrie , 8/28/09 12:54 PM


carrie,well you know what i think but we won't go there:)

As for as the draw is concern :
federer's- a real joke ,i don't even want to get started on that because that is a subject all in iteslf.

Murray-looks to me as if he has a tough one and if he makes it i hope that him and DP fight hard and get tired if either have to face rafa.

Rafa's- his draw is doable.Gasquet should not be a problem.One match at a time. If he makes it threw the first week and is fit he can beat anyone.

alik , 8/28/09 3:31 PM


A good draw is relative IMO - would you rather have possibly tough opponents (but not seeded great, or experienced at Slams,..) in the earlier rounds, or face your top seeded nemeses in the QF and SF? I agree that Muzz has a tough R1-4, but if he makes it through those he faces delP (who is more of a annoyance than a threat, he's been beaten 4 of the last 5 times they've met and the 5th time was on clay), and Rafa in the semis (who he would clearly choose over Roger or Djo at this particular tourny).

In that sense, I think Nole has the toughest draw. Sure his R2,3 and 4 are relatively easy, but to use the inverse of Bob Larson's computation, of the 4 people he could meet in the QF he got Roddick (the worst option for everyone, not just Nole) and between Rafa and Fed in the semis, he got Fed! This is definitely the worst of 8 possible combinations!

stu , 8/28/09 3:32 PM


carrie,well you know what i think but we won't go there:)

As for as the draw is concern :
federer's- a real joke ,i don't even want to get started on that because that is a subject all in iteslf.

Murray-looks to me as if he has a tough one and if he makes it i hope that him and DP fight hard and get tired if either have to face rafa.

Rafa's- his draw is doable.Gasquet should not be a problem.One match at a time. If he makes it threw the first week and is fit he can beat anyone.

alik , 8/28/09 3:34 PM


To be honest, now that I've seen the lopsided draws that these tournaments operate, I am even less impressed with Federer's achievements. He always has it handed to him on a plate, surely it's not coincidence that he always ends up with the smoothest passage, plus the fact that match schedules always seem to favour him.

carrie , 8/28/09 4:51 PM


I agree with Ricky on this one. I've never EVER seen a draw so lopsided in all of my years watching tennis. Murray COMPLETELY got hosed. Granted, he has the game to beat DelPo - he showed it in Montreal. But disregarding even DelPo, the rest of that quarter is a complete minefield.

Federer couldn't have had a better draw if he'd penned it himself. I simply don't understand how that happened, but it did. And just...wow.

Djokovic and Nadal's draws look the most "reasonable" of the 4. Nadal's is the more difficult, but the Spaniard has had good success against most of those guys on hard courts lately. I don't see any reason Nadal won't make at least the quarterfinals.

cherylmurray , 8/28/09 4:54 PM


carrie - no, I said "Gasquet will be little more than a pushover." I'd be shocked if Nadal loses a set.

Although I disagree that Nadal was close to his best in Cincinnati. He wasn't.

RickyDimon , 8/28/09 5:11 PM


I think only R3 and R4 (Ivo and Cilic or Wawa) will be hard for Murray. The rest of the draw is not so bad, really.

Even Cilic or Wawa aren't MAJOR threats IMO...apart from those theres Gulbis (permanent underachiever), delP OR Simon (Muzz beats delP so easily at Masters, and Simon - eh, another underachiever)

stu , 8/28/09 5:20 PM


the "live" draw has been put on tennis.x - so for those of you who still "dont believe" - you can see it happen with your own eyes. Follow the link.

Ricky, I have been on there most of the day - and i just want to post what the guys over there are saying about you! (made me chuckle!) - you are being watched!
(mostly, talking about your blogs/draw analysis and obviously reading them when they are not on tennis.x.)

sar Says:
Jane, yes I saw it was from last year. Darn.
That Ricky Dimon article was good. He was staying at our hotel in Cincy. Quiet, but friendly guy.

Posted August 27th, 2009 at 11:23 pm

!

maxi , 8/28/09 5:21 PM


carrie, whereas I agree that Roger's draw this USO is ridiculously easy compared to the rest of the Big 4 - I don't think it's fair to assume that he has the advantage for the 15 times he has won his 15 majors. You may choose to argue that Agassi/Roddick/Hewitt/Ferrero/Safin/Haas/rest of the oldies were "weak", "uncompetitive" or whatever (in which I would say is an unfair assumption anyway) but Federer has to overcome them in the case where they were former champions, highly ranked, difficult opponents etc. I never thought his titles come "easy" to him, after all, he has to play the same number of matches as everyone else to get to the final point. But then again that is my opinion.

Despite Roger's "cupcake" draw, I wouldn't really count on him reaching the finals for sure. Taking into consideration that he has not yet curb his tendency to go walkabout and/or mentally implode randomly...Hewitt might be a threat, who knows? That guy has the ability to go completely nuts and if there's one thing Hewitt has, it's the tenacity to hang on by the skin of his teeth and absolutely refusing to let go.

Also if Nole gets to the semis to face Fed, I wouldn't pick Roger for the sure winner, either.

I still think despite the draws, USO09 is still a wide open field for the Big 4 and the lurkers - notedly Roddick & oldies.

jyannis , 8/28/09 5:21 PM


Federer has always had a cup cake draw which is why I've never been wholeheartedly impressed with his 15 slams. And I agree with carrie, not just the draws but even the schedules favour him and I said this at AO this year when people like torres immediately jump to Fed's defence and accused me of making it up! Fed fans tend to argue that he makes it look easy but the fact it is HAS it easy. It's more the field like the likes of Lendl, McEnroe and Borg had that make me admire these guys for not only being great but being great AGAINST an intense field. Rafa always had bad luck not only with draws but the schedule and rain even always go against him. Murray has the most difficult draw, very bad luck for him!

homos , 8/28/09 5:22 PM


Someone on tennis-x was suggesting that it's to do with TV ratings that they don't want Federer to make it to the business end of the tourny...............what a level playing field?

maxi, don't believe everything you see, with technology these days, it's posible to manipulate even an electronic draw. It can't be chance that Federer akways has all the players that he owns on his side of the draw.

carrie , 8/28/09 5:48 PM


Sorry, I'll write that again:

Someone on tennis-x was suggesting that it's to do with TV ratings that they want Federer to make it to the business end of the tourny...............what a level playing field?

carrie , 8/28/09 5:51 PM


i didn't want to, but I'm starting to agree. how else would you explain tv-ready matchups like roger-rafa, roddick-nole, muzz-delp, ..

on the other hand, you would think american tv would want a williams sisters final?

stu , 8/28/09 6:03 PM


...I have never really thought that Federer had anything but luck in draws. I've seen him get some real bummers and some good ones but yes this is a major cupcake. Never, ever, will there be a draw this easy again. (Well who knows, maybe Rafa will finally have some luck in later years) If ever, I and my faith in the system could be challenged, it would be now,that I believed in draw rigging. However, I'll pray, he has some snappy opponents at the Oz next year and move on, too late him now. To be honest stu has a point about Americans wanting a Williams final anyway...that does draw some faith in the system for me.

However, it is at no fault to Federer that the draw is pansy-like and once, IF, he gets to the semi's, which it is hard to bet against, he has to face a a)vengeful Roddick or b) a vengeful Nole that finally beat Roddick, unless something goes wrong in the quarter which I doubt because it is lame draw though not on the same scale as Fed's.

I have to admit, this would be a terribly unexciting win for Fed if he does except if Nadal or Murray or even Del Po take him to 5 sets in the final. I don't know if Fed will make it, I mean can anyone image going from pansy like draw and comfort to have to face an on fire Roddick or ball crushing Nole? If this draw was "rigged" it sort goes for and against Fed in that respect.

Recordbreaks , 8/28/09 6:19 PM


fed needs to be tested during the early rounds - it brings out his best - even tho it seems to be an easy draw - (easier than wimby - when AM got a cupcake draw and no one can argue with that -) roge needs to be tested. it does his game no good if it is easy all the way, cos like RB says, he will face a shock in the QF's or the SF's - so get through the rounds and I reckon he gets back on the practice court and plays lights out tennis!

carrie - there is a poster on tennis.x (i haven't read the article yet) - name is von - he posted this link - hope its what you wanna hear.

maxi , 8/28/09 6:34 PM


woops! sorry carrie - here it is !
Von Says:
http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/26082009/58/open-expert-optimistic-nad al-fitness.html
Expert optimistic on Nadal?s fitness.
Posted August 27th, 2009 at 12:47 pm

maxi , 8/28/09 6:37 PM


maxi, thanks for this. These are the same doctors who said Rafa had the knees of a 33 years old and will never play top tennis again.

carrie , 8/28/09 8:57 PM


Americans are tired of the Williams sisters in finals together..very boring!
The US OPEN desperately wants a Rafa/federer final.Since Wimbledon 08 was such a thriller..the US organizers will be completely crazy if that where to happen this year.
As so will i.

alik , 8/28/09 9:24 PM


hi carrie, i have been on tennis.x for most of afternoon and just picked this up now, i will read the link - but you know carrie - i am confident that rafa WILL be at the top of his game (or certainly come into his own - i really do) this USOpen, and even tho i am a roger fan, i kindof wouldn't mind so much if rafa won it this year - it would kind of shut the critics up (a bit like federer did earlier in the year) - so looking at the title:-expert optimistic on nadals fitness- are you saying you don't believe them? I'm just not too clear? things seem pretty quiet amongst the guys over there right now -just analysing the draw - but von is usually very thorough and i learn a lot from him/her.

maxi , 8/28/09 9:48 PM


I've always believed that Rafa would be back fully fit, but there were many 'experts' who were glad to write him off. As you know, nothing will please me better than to see Rafa knocking them all off like flies again.

e&oe

carrie , 8/28/09 10:17 PM


carrie, there are a lot of articles out there (ESPN), that say that rafa is actually gonna shock everyone - he is fresh - lacking in match practice - but not in spirit - and for the most part, a lot of people think that he is going to "take it". Should he do so, he goes back to No.1.

Of course, he gonna have to get past fed (tee hee) - but am looking forward to a potential roger/rafa final - that would be so cool carrie.

maxi , 8/29/09 12:08 PM


maxi, if Rafa meets Fed in the final, it's Goodbye Roger, sorry to disappoint you.

Seriously, it Rafa and Roger make it to the fiinal, no one will be able to contain their excitement.

carrie , 8/29/09 4:28 PM


nope. Fed has nothing to lose now. All the time he faced Rafa, he faced history too. basically against 2 opponents. Now even if he loses to Rafa, 15 is in the bag.

torres9 , 8/30/09 12:28 AM


Rafa WILL be facing history (career Golden Slam) so he will be pumped for the win!

fan4tennis , 8/30/09 1:02 AM


I kinda agree w/ FFT : ) but not carrie, lolzzzzz

Of course, maxi and torres....solidarity! Federer has a way different attitude and is a changed beast from the man who lost to Rafa last AO. He has nothing to lose and BELIEVES in his ability to whip Rafa's arse, should they meet in another GS final. OH and I hope to watch that one!

peace and love : )

zoey234 , 8/30/09 1:23 AM


not that I don't love Rafa, remember, fft.

Rafa's just tied for 2nd fave now with Roddick, the man I am rooting for to win another GS somehow, some way, without ever having to play Federer to get there! And not that I won't be happy for Rafa 'when' he wins the US Open and joins the Club at the pinnacle.

zoey234 , 8/30/09 1:50 AM


I think Verdasco cannot be overlooked! He's in Roddick's/Djoker's qtr/Fed's half, yes?

Rafa & Fed have decent qtrs (except Querry will be dangerous, and you can never count Ferrer or Jo-Willy out), but all bets are off after that.

And what is all this hubbub about the draw? Where is the controversy? Do you not think that all the slams have their own system for their draw? Is there a conspiracy theory? Inquiring minds want to know...

**Pulling for either Roddick or Fed - would love to see ARod pull a rabbit out of a hat & get his 2nd USO/Slam, but if he doesn't make it thru, then pulling for Fed all the way (fingers crossed)**



Rafterfan , 8/30/09 5:51 AM


I remember zoey--lol. I like Roddick too, but I also like AM and Nole but of course, Rafa is my fave, you remember that I'm sure--lol. It would be GREAT for him to get his Golden Slam on his first try, but his health is more important than getting that. Just hoping for a good showing this year! He's improved every year so that would mean finals this year--lol. Keeping knees and fingers crossed!

fan4tennis , 8/30/09 6:49 AM



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