Monday, January 9, 2012
The Week that Was: Likes, Dislikes and Details
Just like the Australian summer, the tennis is heating up down under. But not all tennis players are created equal, and the first week of 2012 gave incontrovertible proof of that very fact. Some, like Milos Raonic, Bernard Tomic and Andy Murray were fast out of the gate, while others, like Samantha Stosur, Stan Wawrinka and even Rafael Nadal, have yet to find their A games.
Here's a look at who wowed and who was cowed.
Like: Andy Murray
What's not to like about starting the season with a title? Well, okay, since you asked, I'll tell you. Murray won 47% percent of his second serve points last week in Brisbane, which puts him at 66th-best on tour after one week of work. That said, Murray banged down some aces and generally did more damage with his serve than usual, and he won 89% of his service games, which is considerably higher than last year. I've said time and time again that the single missing ingredient in Andy Murray's game is the ability to hold serve like the other members of the big four. Everybody talks about Ivan Lendl being the missing ingredient, and he very well may be, but not if he doesn't place a heavy emphasis on getting his new charge to hold serve more often.
Like: Kaia Kanepi
Wow. I'm speechless. And apparently I'm not the only one, because I read a lot of buzz about Kanepi's game throughout the week. It's probably a little too early to anoint her as a legitimate Grand Slam threat, but with her sterling performance in Brisbane, the former No. 16 and three-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist is clearly setting the table for a banner year. She breezed through her final four matches, taking out top flight competition (Pavlyuchenkova, Petkovic, Schiavone, and Hantuchova) and playing a brand of aggressive first-strike tennis that was, in a nutshell, awe-inspiring.
Like: Bernard Tomic
Yes, he met his match in the Brisbane semis, but take a look at the highlights if you want to know just how unique of a talent Bernard Tomic is. Keep in mind, he was outside the top 200 this time last year, so to have world beater Andy Murray on a string for much of the first set in an ATP semifinal is an achievement to be sure. At No. 37 he won't be seeded this year in Melbourne, but with the right draw, I think another appearance in the second week of a Slam is very, very possible.
Like: Milos Raonic
I should say love. The missile shoots up to No. 25 in the ATP rankings after taking the Chennai title, and he'll be a serious contender to go deep in the Melbourne draw now that he is healthy. And get a load of these stats for the banner week: Aces: 77 Percent of service games won: 100 Percent of break points won: 100 (14 of 14).
Raonic's return is still flawed, but I believe that the big Canadian has a better chance than that other North American monster server, John Isner, at actually making strides on the return game. Raonic is a top 10 player relatively soon regardless, but if he finds a way to win, say 17% of his return games and stay healthy, I don't see why he can't disrupt the big four stranglehold, win a few Slams and challenge for the No. 1 ranking.
Like: Zheng Jie
She's healthy again, after a 2011 that was spent recovering from wrist surgery (ask Juan Martin del Potro if that's easy), and she nabbed her first title since 2006 by beating Flavia Pennetta in the final.
Like: Petra Kvitova and Na Li
Both former Grand Slam winners were strong in Hopman Cup singles play last week. Kvitova served up a statement win over Caroline Wozniacki, then ousted Marion Bartoli in the final. Li was also unbeaten. Prospects for each heading into Sydney and Melbourne look very good.
Like: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Nice start to 2012 for Jo-Willy. He notched his 8th career title in Doha, and took his career record to 3-1 vs. his good buddy Gael Monfils.
It was a tough week for Kim Clijsters, Serena Williams, Alexandr Dolgopolov, and Roger Federer. All experienced different injuries, and all will have to tread very carefully with less than a week remaining before the Australian Open gets underway. There are also a host of pre-existing injuries, like Maria Sharapova's ankle, Rafael Nadal's shoulder and Novak Djokovic's general state of fatigue to worry about too. The good news? Each is currently very hopeful of recovering in time to be close to 100 percent fitness in Melbourne. The bad news. I can just feel more bad news coming, so I'm staying prepared.
Dislike: Samantha Stosur
I'm not sure why, but whoever has won the last Grand Slam on the women's side is basically destined to fall on her face in the next Slam. And maybe the Slam after that. Stosur appears to be no exception, and she'll limp into Melbourne with one win in three matches in two tournaments this year. Can she break the trend? I'm not feeling it, but I hope she proves me wrong. She's dying to play her best tennis in front of her home crowd, but she'll need to right the ship fast.
Dislike: Agnieszka Radwanska
Why does Aga always have to give her kid sister such a beat-down when they play?
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