Roger won’t stop adding to legend status

They say that you should never write off a champion, or at least do so at your own peril.

 

I feel foolish for questioning whether Roger Federer was still capable of challenging at the very top level of the sport almost a year ago. It was the conclusion of Wimbledon last year and Federer had aggravated a knee injury and decided to take the remained of the 2016 season off the sport. I, like many, wasn’t sure whether he could return and challenge at the highest level again, especially at his age. You just expect an athlete at that age to eventually slow down, regardless of how good they are. Federer is just refusing to show any signs of this, much to the delight of tennis and sports fans worldwide.

 

What Federer has achieved so far this season at the ripe old age of 35 is beyond belief. If his hugely popular Australian Open triumph wasn’t enough to suggest he was still capable of mixing it with the best, he nonchalantly went on to win the ‘Sunshine Double’ of the Master Series in Indian Wells & Miami just to make sure of it.

 

It’s almost been a decade since Roger has played with this much freedom and confidence. His serve is still one of the best in the game, his footwork sublime, his forehand hitting the spots and he has also, out of seemingly nowhere, added a devastating backhand to his game which he is using to break-down all of his opponents. Rafael Nadal, who used to regularly have the edge over Federer, now appears to have no answer to him. Federer’s Miami title win was the 3rd straight win over Nadal in the space of almost as many months, and his last two have been clinical.

 

What’s even more remarkable is that Federer has a very reasonable chance of returning to world number 1. It’s only just ticked over April and he’s already jumped from 17 to 4 on the ATP rankings and due to his limited playing activity in 2016, Roger has very few points to defend this year, giving him a free run at Murray and Djokovic.

 

Federer has announced that he will most likely sit out the entire clay court season (with the exception of the French Open) to rest his body after his colossal start to the season. Based on the way he is playing and intelligently managing his workload, it’s hard to look past him as the early favourite for Wimbledon in a few months time.

2017 Australian Open Recap

I’m struggling to recall a more remarkable fortnight of tennis. This year’s Australian Open certainly delivered and in my opinion was one of the best Grand Slams of recent memory. There was something for everyone at this year’s tournament. The underdogs prospered, there were throwbacks to the 80’s with some classic serve & volley and at the business end, it was the game’s legends who stood tall.

Much was said about the faster courts at this year’s event. Assuming this was an intentional move, in my mind this was one of the best decisions Tennis Australia have made for many years. Heavy favourites were taken out of their comfort zone, some unfamiliar faces made a name for themselves and there was some much welcome variety in contrasting game styles added to many of the matches.

In the end, it was fitting that this extraordinary tournament had such an incredible finish. In the women’s draw, it was the game’s most famous sisters who battled it out for glory once more. And finally on the last Sunday, it was arguably the two best men to have played the game, squaring off for one more chapter in the sport’s greatest ever rivalry.

Roger Federer – The G.O.A.T

The greatest of all time. There is no questioning it after what he produced over these past two weeks. Let’s not forget this was Federer’s first tournament in six months after an injury layoff. He had a nightmare draw in which he faced four top 10 players (Berdych, Nishikori, Wawrinka & Nadal) and he was able to come through on top, all at 35 years of age. It was fitting that Federer’s 18th Grand Slam victory was in an epic final against his greatest rival in Rafael Nadal. What Federer has achieved and still capable of, given the competition in the men’s game over the past decade and a half, is nothing short of astonishing.


Serena Williams – The most successful female in the open era

The greatest female in the open era. Serena just keeps delivering results. Her Australian Open triumph was her 23rd Grand Slam victory and she doesn’t look like slowing down in a hurry. Her 23rd major took her past Steffi Graf on the Grand Slam tally and is only one behind Margaret Court’s remarkable record of 24.

Who Impressed

Roger Federer – I need to mention once more how good this bloke is. He had been written off by so many. They said he couldn’t win another major, they said he was on the way out. How wrong they were.

Rafael Nadal – Was tantalisingly close to capturing a 15th major but was beaten by the best. A terrific return from injury, Rafa almost looks to be back to his best. Early days but hard to pick anyone against him at the French Open in a few months based on his form here.

Grigor Dimitrov – A fantastic month for Grigor. Nobody has ever doubted his talent but he looks to be finally putting it together on the court and producing results. Took out the Brisbane title with some impressive wins over some big names. Was extremely unlucky to fall short in a 5 hour epic against Rafa in the semis but it was a pleasure to see him in full flight during the past month. Definitely one to watch closely in 2017.

Mischa Zverev – After enduring years of injury, Mischa produced the best grand slam performance of his career with a quarter final appearance. May have been helped by the slightly quicker courts at this year’s tournament but he still executed a serve and volley game beautifully. A fantastic win over Andy Murray in the 4th round which will be remembered for a while.

Venus Williams – Another who has endured years of frustrations with injury and indifferent form. Venus appeared in her first major final for almost 8 years. If she can stay injury free, expect to see her with a regular spot well inside the top 10.

Coco Vandeweghe – Fantastic tournament from the unseeded American. Dispatched both of Angelique Kerber and Garbiñe Muguruza en-route to a semi-final appearance. Went after her shots and played some entertaining and super aggressive tennis. Her impressive fortnight sees her move to a career high rank of 20.

Mirjana Lučić-Baroni – A wonderful story for the Croatian veteran, not only in winning her first match at the Australian Open since 1998 but for winning another four matches and progressing to the semis. She equals her best result in a major which was previously at Wimbledon in 1999.


Who Disappointed

Novak Djokovic – A shock loss to Denis Istomin in the second round for the 6-time former Champion. Seems to be in a significant form slump and looks nowhere near as dangerous as he was this time last year. Has some work to do.

Nick Kyrgios – Looked great in his first five sets of the tournament then capitulated from the third set onwards against Andreas Seppi. Has heaps of talent but also a lot of work to do. Expected better given his seeding and an appearance at his home slam. Will be interesting to see how well he can bounce back.

Lucas Pouille – A disappointing showing from the young Frenchman. Was defeated by Alexander Bublik who was ranked outside the top 200. Pouille looked unstoppable early claiming the first set 6-0 but fell apart afterwards, losing in four.

Agnieszka Radwańska – Comprehensively beaten by Lučić-Baroni in the second round. There is no doubting about her ability but she needs to produce better results than this.

Simona Halep – Thrashed by Shelby Rogers on the first day. Her second successive first round exit at the Australian Open.

Sam Stosur – The first round exit at her home tournament was bad enough but the way she was beaten in the third set (6-0) at the hands of Heather Watson was very disappointing. Will be looking to find some form leading into the hard and clay court season.


Where to Next…

Both the men’s and women’s representative competitions kick off within the next week with the Davis Cup commencing on Friday and the Fed Cup commencing early next week.

Commencing next week there are a number of indoor hard court tournaments in North America and Europe as well as some clay court tournaments in South America before moving onto the masters series tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami in March/April.

 

Men’s Australian Open Final Preview

(17) Roger Federer (SUI) vs (9) Rafael Nadal (ESP)

To say that this is a dream matchup would be a gross understatement. Arguably the two greatest men to have ever played the game face off tonight to fittingly cap off what has been a sensational two weeks at the Australian Open.

Both players have returned superbly from their respective injury layoffs and have produced close to some of their best tennis throughout the last fortnight. Roger has served well and is hitting his groundstrokes beautifully whilst we have also seen the Rafa of old with lightning court speed, tremendous hustle and that trademark massive forehand.

Historically Rafa has had a significant edge over Roger and holds a 23-11 record. However if you remove their 15 clay-court encounters from the equation, (a surface we all know heavily favours Nadal), their record is almost even. On hard courts, Rafa still has a slight edge (9-7) but this surface makes for a much more even playing field between the two.

The Roger / Rafa rivalry has been synonymous with producing some of the best tennis matches in modern history and they will face-off for a 35th time this evening. This match has the makings of an absolute classic and it may well be the last time we see these two living legends battle it out in a Grand Slam final.

How Roger Federer will win…

I expect Roger to serve very well as he has done all tournament. Tonight he will need to hit the right spots and get plenty of free points off his first serve. It’s also crucial that he takes his chances when presented with any break opportunities on Nadal’s serve. Grigor Dimitrov had two break points at 3-4 in the 5th set in the semi against Nadal but wasn’t able to capitilise. Federer will need to take these chances if he gets them. Watch for Roger to attack the Nadal 2nd serve in an effort to get on top of the point early as he will need to be super aggressive and keep the points short. This is a big key for him if he is to win tonight as he can’t let Nadal dictate the rallies from the baseline. If Nadal drops any rally shots short, Roger must come into the court and put them away for a winner. Rafa is also one of the toughest opponents to hit a winner against so Federer will need to be striking the ball extremely well.

How Rafael Nadal will win…

Over the years, Rafa has engineered and executed a game-plan that is specifically designed to beat Roger Federer. Nadal has relentlessly attacked the one-handed backhand of Federer with his big cross-court forehand and I expect him to attempt this strategy again tonight. Look for Nadal to control the points and run Federer around behind the baseline and prevent him from getting inside the court and hitting an aggressive shot. If Nadal can pin Federer to the back of the court and force him to go for even bigger shots both wings, the errors will come.

Prediction

As Andy Roddick pointed out, this could be one of the biggest matches in the history of the sport. Currently Roger sits on 17 Grand Slam wins with Rafa not far behind him at 14. If Federer wins tonight he will move to 18 major wins, a number that may never be matched. On the other hand, if Nadal wins, he moves to 15 major wins with his favourite French Open just a few months away. The implications of this match on the Grand Slam ladder are massive and both men will be well aware of this.

Federer and Nadal have delighted crowds with some of their best tennis over the past fortnight and tonight should be no different. Nadal seems to have the edge over Federer whenever they play and I think this may play a big part in tonight’s result. Nadal has the game to beat Roger and has a good record of executing it in the major finals. Whilst I expect tonight’s match to be close, I expect Rafa to be too strong.

Nadal in 4 sets.

Ladies’ Australian Open Final Preview

(13) Venus Williams (USA) vs (2) Serena Williams (USA)

It’s a throwback to a decade ago when the Williams sisters were regulars in the last match of a major. For the first time since Wimbledon 2009, it’s Venus and Serena facing off in a grand slam final. Whilst Serena has remained at the top of her game over the past decade, Venus has struggled with form and injuries but has finally found fitness again and is now once again playing great tennis.

This will be the ninth time that the Williams sisters will have faced each other in a grand slam final. Historically, Serena holds the upper hand in these matches with a 6-2 record over her older sister in the major finals. Serena has won the Australian Open on six previous occasions whereas Venus has once previously made the final (in 2003).

The matchup itself will be very intriguing. Both have similar game styles and obviously know each other’s game exceptionally well. Whilst both have a similar game, it’s Serena who has generally had the edge over Venus in previous matches.

How Venus will win…

Venus will need to own the baseline and pick the right points to advance and finish the points off in the front half of the court or at the net. She will need to take Serena’s time away and not allow her to take control of the rallies. Like Serena, Venus also possesses a very good serve but she will need to be aggressive on the return to have any chance.

How Serena will win…

Serena will look to control the points from the back of the court and make Venus do all the moving. Watch Serena try and take the ball early and move her taller sister around the court and overpower her to take control of the match.

Prediction

Venus is in great form at the moment and deservedly has a spot in another major final. However Serena has typically had the edge over her sister and has a terrific record here in Australia. Their record against each other is skewed in favour of Serena, particularly in major finals. I think she will be too strong for Venus and claim her seventh Australian Open.

Serena in straight sets.

Browny’s Tips – Australian Open Day 10

Safe Bets

Karolína Plíšková @ $1.20 – Plíšková was very impressive last night against Daria Gavrilova and I expect her to account for Croatian veteran Mirjana Lučić-Baroni

Pierre-Hugues Herbert & Nicolas Mahut @ $1.20 – The number 1 seeds should progress as I expect they will to be too strong for Aussies Marc Polmans & Andrew Whittington

 

Worth a Punt

Milos Raonic @ $2.16 – I think Raonic is a huge chance in this quarter-final against Nadal. Raonic was too good for Nadal a fortnight ago in the Brisbane International and is every chance of getting the job done again.

Sam Groth & Chris Guccione @ $2.92 – The big serving Aussies are playing great doubles at the moment. They have a tough matchup against Kontinen & Peers but odds of close to $3 are tempting, especially with home crowd behind Aussie pair.

 

* PLEASE NOTE THAT THESE TIPS ARE NOT INTENDED AS ADVICE AND I TAKE NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY FINANCIAL LOSSES OR OTHERWISE. ODDS ARE TAKEN FROM SPORTSBET.COM.AU AT THE TIME EACH BLOG ENTRY IS PUBLISHED. AS ALWAYS, PLEASE GAMBLE RESPONSIBLY.

Browny’s Tips – Australian Open Day 9

 

Worth a Punt

Coco Vandeweghe @ $2.60 – Coming off a comprehensive win agsinst world number 1 Angelique Kerber, Vandeweghe finds her self again as the underdog against Garbiñe Muguruza. Value at over $2.50.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga @ $2.24 – Not without a change against Stan Wawrinka. If Tsonga serves well he will be hard to beat.

 

* PLEASE NOTE THAT THESE TIPS ARE NOT INTENDED AS ADVICE AND I TAKE NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY FINANCIAL LOSSES OR OTHERWISE. ODDS ARE TAKEN FROM SPORTSBET.COM.AU AT THE TIME EACH BLOG ENTRY IS PUBLISHED. AS ALWAYS, PLEASE GAMBLE RESPONSIBLY.

Browny’s Tips – Australian Open Day 8

Safe Bets

Milos Raonic @ $1.20 – Raonic should have too much class and too much power for Roberto Bautista Agut.

Serena Williams @ $1.14 – I expect Serena to be too strong for Barbora Strýcová.

 

Worth a Punt

Dominic Thiem @ $2.04 – Surprised that Goffin is the favourite in this match, Thiem good value at over $2.

Gaël Monfils @ $3.31 – Good value for Monfils against Nadal. Monfils is the higher seed and has had a great last 12 months. His big hitting may be able to blow Nadal off the court but will need to be playing well. Not without a chance.

Daria Gavrilova @ $3.69 – Will be up against it when she plays Kristyna Pliskova but she is playing good tennis at the moment and will have a big home crowd behind her. Decent value at almost $4.

 

* PLEASE NOTE THAT THESE TIPS ARE NOT INTENDED AS ADVICE AND I TAKE NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY FINANCIAL LOSSES OR OTHERWISE. ODDS ARE TAKEN FROM SPORTSBET.COM.AU AT THE TIME EACH BLOG ENTRY IS PUBLISHED. AS ALWAYS, PLEASE GAMBLE RESPONSIBLY.

Browny’s Tips – Australian Open Day 7

Safe Bets
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga @ $1.20 – Dan Evans has been super solid so far and in the lead up to the Australian Open but I think Tsonga will be too strong for him.

Angelique Kerber @ $1.28 – Should continue her quest towards back-to-back titles and get the job done against Coco Vandeweghe.
Worth a Punt

Kei Nishikori @ $2.25 – Federer looked very good against Berdych but Nishikori will be another tough opponent who is every chance of upsetting Roger if he isn’t on his game.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova @ $2.25 – Perhaps a bit of value here against Svetlana Kuznetsova who had a long match in her third round.

 

* PLEASE NOTE THAT THESE TIPS ARE NOT INTENDED AS ADVICE AND I TAKE NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY FINANCIAL LOSSES OR OTHERWISE. ODDS ARE TAKEN FROM SPORTSBET.COM.AU AT THE TIME EACH BLOG ENTRY IS PUBLISHED. AS ALWAYS, PLEASE GAMBLE RESPONSIBLY.

Browny’s Tips – Australian Open Day 6

Safe Bets
Karolína Plíšková @ $1.13 – Plíšková should continue her good run and account for Jeļena Ostapenko.
Elena Vesnina @ $1.30 – Vesnina should bring Jennifer Brady’s run to an end.
Worth a Punt
Alexander Zverev @ $3.32 – I think Zverev has a huge chance today against Rafa. Zverev held a match point against him last year at the Indian Wells Masters and he’s improved significantly since then. Nowadays Nadal struggles with the big hitters as well. Zverev good value here.
David Ferrer @ $2.74 – Plays Roberto Bautista Agut who is ranked 14. Hard to split these two on paper but I think anything over $2.50 is great value for Ferrer when he’s playing someone outside the top 10.
Richard Gasquet @ $2.25 – Big matchup between Gasquet and Dimitrov. Only 3 ranking spots separates the two players and Gasquet decent odds north of $2.
Caroline Wozniacki @ $2.40 – Wozniacki looks in very good form at the moment and looks reasonable value against Johanna Konta.

* PLEASE NOTE THAT THESE TIPS ARE NOT INTENDED AS ADVICE AND I TAKE NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY FINANCIAL LOSSES OR OTHERWISE. ODDS ARE TAKEN FROM SPORTSBET.COM.AU AT THE TIME EACH BLOG ENTRY IS PUBLISHED. AS ALWAYS, PLEASE GAMBLE RESPONSIBLY.

Browny’s Tips – Australian Open Day 5

Safe Bets

Stan Wawrinka @ $1.14 – Stan got a big wake up call in the first round and was far better in his second round match. I expect his form to continue to improve and he should be too strong for Viktor Troicki.

Angelique Kerber @ $1.14 – Kerber should have too much class for 58th ranked Kristýna Plíšková.

Venus Williams @ $1.36 – Venus looked very good yesterday and the veteran should account for 87th ranked Duan Yingying.

Worth a Punt

Jack Sock @ $2.31 – Sock has looked good in his first two matches and is in great form at the moment. Tsonga will have to play some good tennis to get the job done and I think Sock is a sneaky chance here.

Tomáš Berdych @ $2.34 – Federer has looked a little rusty in his first two matches and will need to be on his game to beat Berdych. Federer probably only just the favourite in my book and Berdych looks decent value in what should be a very even matchup.

Coco Vandeweghe @ $2.33 – Danger game for Canadian Eugenie Bouchard. Vandeweghe has a very powerful game and if she is in form, could be too strong for Bouchard.

 

* PLEASE NOTE THAT THESE TIPS ARE NOT INTENDED AS ADVICE AND I TAKE NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY FINANCIAL LOSSES OR OTHERWISE. ODDS ARE TAKEN FROM SPORTSBET.COM.AU AT THE TIME EACH BLOG ENTRY IS PUBLISHED. AS ALWAYS, PLEASE GAMBLE RESPONSIBLY.