With the Tennis season now all but over (IPTL and ITF’s aside), I have decided to use this opportunity to write my first blog rounding up the last few weeks of the season!
To clarify I don’t deem IPTL as ‘Tennis’,what a joke …..Anyway, The End Of Year Championships. Andy Murray came into the tournament on a 19 match winning streak, but it was Djokovic who opened up with a shaky 3 set win over Dominic Thiem, whom has been looking fatigued and short on confidence ever since Vesely served him off the court at Wimbledon. In Nole’s second match he edged out Milos Raonic in two tie breaks, with the Canadian blowing golden opportunities in both sets. The group stage was completed with a routine straight set win over David Goffin in a match that had an exhibition feel to it, the latter replacing Monfils for the last match(BTW from what I can see Goffin pocketed $179 US Dollars for the pleasure). WOW!!!!!. Raonic dominated a clearly not fit Monfils with another fine serving display and after some edgy moments in the first set tie break with Thiem, in a winner takes all clash, he claimed two straight set wins. Thiem claiming his win in 3 sets over Monfils. Murray opened up on the Monday with a solid display which ended with him roaring away from Marin Cilic in straights. Then came the 3 hour classic with Kei Nishikori in which both players excelled in a high quality affair. In his final group match Stan Wawrinka was brushed aside for the second time in the tournament after Nishikori took him apart in the first group match. Bizarrely, the final group match between Cilic and Nishikori, which was a dead rubber ended up being a match Nishikori could have done without, knowing Djokovic was his Semi-Final opponent. After losing the first set Cilic then upped his game against a tired looking opponent to win in 3 sets.The Semi-Finals were being built up around the battle for top spot in the rankings. First Up was Murray v Raonic. No doubting Muzza was not at his best here and Raonic had chances,Murray however failed to serve out the match twice in the decider and blew several match points in the final set breaker before prevailing 11/9. A special mention here has to go out to Murray for another fiery exchange with the court cameras and for going what seemed like 12 rounds with his racket leaving him bloody knuckled. All this mixed in with the Tennis made for blinding viewing!!!It has to be said Raonic now looks close to taking his game to the next level ,just a few tweaks mentally and learning from the past and a Big title should not be far away. This match was 3 hours 38 mins (ousting the 3 hour match with Nishikori a few days previously), becoming the longest in the O2’s history. In contrast Djokovic breezed past a physically depleted Nishikori 6/1 6/1 in little over an hour.This lead to not only a complete switch up in the betting markets and Murray was, believe it or not, a bigger price to win the Final than he had been to win the whole Tournament throughout…oh ye of little faith! Murray mixed his game up by outlasting his opponent in the longer rallies, bringing him in and passing him and blasting him away when required. Djokovic wasn’t at his best again, but Murray’s level right now is superior anything Novak has shown since the clay back in May. Some of Murray’s shot making here was superb a backhand in the fifth game of the second encapsulating this when ripping it for another clean winner. The fully deserved 6/3 6/4 score line brought with it the end of year number one ranking spot with a 24th consecutive win. Some going!
CiCi Bellis the young 17 year old who resides in California sprung to prominence on the main Tour when taking out Dominika Cibulkova at the US Open when aged just 15. Bellis also registered a round of 32 appearance this year losing to World number one Angie Kerber. Like Murray, CiCi is now on a 14 match winning streak of her own after a couple of ITF titles on Canadian Soil have been followed up by claiming the biggest title of her career in the WTA 125k in Honolulu, a kind of Challenger tour equivalent. Going into the Tournament seeded 4th the young American breezed through each contest with minimal fuss losing only 20 games in her five rounds.Top seed Shuai Zhang from China was bested 6/4 6/2 in the Final. Bellis says ”I’m getting better with every match – that’s the goal for every tournament.”It will be interesting to see how she gets on in Europe but the signs of a top player are definitely there . Whenever I’ve seen her play I’ve been impressed, so lets see what happens.
The last main Tennis action of the year saw Juan Martin Del Potro, aided by compatriot Federico Delbonis lift the very large Davis Cup in Zagreb. Cilic opened up proceedings against Delbonis. There is no doubt the Argentine is improving vastly on the quicker surfaces. He battled from 2 sets down here, Cilic dominating initially with his serve and forehand but when his level dropped slightly Delbonis took his chance with some blistering returns. In the decider Cilic’s serve started to fire again which saw him prevail 6-3 7-5 3-6 1-6 6-2. Juan Martin Del Potro then stepped out on court putting in a solid display against Ivo Karlovic, out serving and as you would expect having too much of the ground for his opponent. Delboy took care of his serve throughout the match and levelled the tie up 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 7-5.The doubles was taken by the home side in straight sets and from what I’ve read owe a debt to Ivan Dodig here who looked the best player on court. So, on the Final day the Croats knew a win in either rubber would hand them to trophy. Cilic came out firing against Del Potro taking a two set lead dominating a tired looking opponent again with some big serving. Del Potro had never come from 2 sets down previously,which surprised me as I was sure he had. He worked his way intelligently into this one though and upped his level with some top draw shot making, the full repetoire off both wings on show here. More importantly he allowed Cilic to miss at some key moments .Del Potro 6-7 (4-7) 2-6 7-5 6-4 6-3.All I can say after this is what a performance from Delbonis against Karlovic in the decider. A 3,4 and 2 victory sealed with a superb display throughout, totally outclassing Karlovic and serving and returning with menace for the duration. I’m pleased for the Argentines and particularly Del Potro who gets some compensation for not winning the Olympic Gold. I hope next season he can remain injury free and that his results keep improving, he’s getting there, ‘the boi’.
Andy Del Potro