Nole Reigns in Doha as Serena and Angie falter!

I would like to start off my  blog by wishing Petra Kvitova a speedy recovery after the horrendous events at her home. Shocking stuff and we hope to see her back on Court asap, maybe in around six months time! All the best Petra. On a better note, congratulations Serena on her engagement to Alexis Ohanian. Alexis, your a lucky,lucky man!!!I have received numerous messages from people sending me their “condolences” that “My Wife”, is now in fact engaged. Congrats.

Novak Djokovic staked his claim for Australian Open glory, taking the $1,334,270 event in Doha,Qatar. The Serb took the title with a three set win over Andy Murray.Djokovic had opened up the week with straight sets wins over Struff,Zeballos and Radek Stepanek. The Semi-Final against Spaniard Fernando Verdasco proved to be a match of high quality. Verdasco showing positive signs this week after disposing of Pospisil, 4th Seeded David Goffin and big serving Croat Ivo Karlovic, all in straight sets. Goffin actually claiming he might of had ”the flu”. Verdasco’s talent has never been in dispute, its just when he seems to fancy it…. or not as it would mostly seem. It was again on show here against the World number two. Nando looked in command from the baseline and took the first set 6/4. In a second set tie-break he led 6-2 and 7-6, but faltered missing his five match points. Djoko took control in decider to take a 4/6 7/6(7) 6/3 victory into the Final. Here he faced Andy Murray, the Brit had reached this stage after being pushed hard by Chardy, Gerald Melzer and Nicolas Almagro. Murray being very complimentary towards Melzer saying “He was dominating large parts of the match, and dictating a lot of the points ….. If he plays like that this year he’ll move higher in the rankings. I was a bit lucky to get through in two sets today”. Nice words! Murray’s Semi-Final opponent was Tomas Berdych, who had impressed in his 7/5 6/3 victory over Jo-Wilfred Tsonga in the previous round. This one didn’t live up to its billing though, possibly due to Berdych having trouble with his right ankle, as Murray posted a routine 6/3 6/4 victory. This ensuring the top two went head to head again. Djok stormed to a set and 5/3  here,  before Murray threw the kitchen sink at him, taking the next four games and the set with it. Nole composed himself though in the decider and proved to be the more consistent performer on the day, landing the title 6/3 5/7 6/4.

The Brisbane Men’s field was headed by Milos Raonic,Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, Dominic Thiem and Rafa Nadal. Raonic playing here with Richard Krajicek now in his corner! But it was Grigor Dimitrov that delivered here. He finished last season off well and looks to of kick-started 2017 in decent nick. I’m expecting a marked improvement in his ranking this season. He edged past Thiem in the last 8, with his counterpart managing  to convert a measly 1 from 14 on break points. His Semi-Final opponent was top seed Raonic, who had turned the tables from the exhibition the previous week in ousting Nadal from a set down. The Canadian having far too much power at his disposal in the final two sets. The  first set of the Semi was won by the Bulgarian on a tie break, from here Raonic fell away. Having said that Dimitrov played some good Tennis, make few errors, 7/6(7) 6/2. In the bottom half of the draw the last four threw up the expected Nishikori/Wawrinka match up. These were set up with victories over Jordan Thompson and Kyle Edmund respectively. The former actually practises with Nishikori and was probably best reflected in the 6/1 6/1 tonking. Stan winning in a tight three sets against the Briton. Maybe this match took its toll on Wawrinka, as he had the trainer out several times for a footy injury against Nishikori. Like the top half of the draw the first set went to a tie-break here, Kei taking it. Nishikori then went onto dominate the second to score a 7/6(3) 6/3 victory. In the Final Dimitrov served at 68% (first serve) and claimed after, that trips to the arcade in Brisbane were behind his success. A consistent performance here, as all week and a scoreline of 6/2 2/6 6/3  got his year off to a flyer. One other thing of note at this event last week, was the return in the doubles event of Thanasi Kokkinakis……and the fact he won it partnering fellow countrymen Jordan Thompson. Great effort Thanasi!!

In the Women’s event here, top seed and World Number One Angie Kerber got beat at her own game in the last 8 by Elina Svitolina, succumbing 6/4 3/6 6/3. Second seed Dominika Cibulkova fell at the same stage to Alize Cornet of France 6/3 7/5. Third seed Karolina Pliskova tore through the first few rounds, with straights sets wins over Kazak Yulia Putintseva and American Asia Muhammad. A win Over the tricky Roberta Vinci in the Quarters in three sets set up a semi with Svitolina. In the bottom half, Cornet had made the most of upsetting ‘Bulky’ by progressing to the last four against Muguruza. Muguruza had struggled past both Stosur and the impressive Daria Kasatkina in her previous rounds. 5 games into her match with Cornet she withdrew at 1-4 down with a right thigh injury! Back in the top half  Pliskova bested Svitolina 6/2 6/4, pouncing on anything short from her opponent. In the Final Pliskova didn’t serve as well as she normally does (47%). Thankfully for her, the rest of her game was on point! Cornet mustered five points in the first set getting bagelled! She faired better in the second but went down 6/0 6/3! Pliskova is certainly making heavy inroads into the game now! She certainly looks like she will have a big year. The power game she possesses looks to have the beating of most opponents right now.

Serena and Venus both made the trip to Auckland this year as the top two seeds. This being Serena’s first match since last years defeat at the US Open to Pliskova. After beating Pauline Parmentier in her first round encounter she faced Madison Brengle. This produced a lacklustre performance from Serena, committing 88 unforced errors in her  6/4 6/7(3) 6/4 loss.Promoting her into “I’m trying to think of a word that’s not obscene but that’s pretty much how I played”. At 35 years old the body wont be starting the season as quickly as it used to, so hopefully this gets rid of some of the cobwebs. Venus gave Naomi Osaka a walkover in the second round. Caroline Wozniacki was installed as the latest tournament favourite, but she came a cropper against Julia Goerges, not for the first time. This would be the first time she’s lost from 6/1 3/0 though! The German painting the lines from here on in, playing inspired Tennis! This wasn’t backed up by Julia though, as has so often been in the past. 19 Year old Ana Konjuh took care of her in the semi’s after also beating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova first up. Lauren Davis took advantage of Serena’s departure with victories over Barbora  Strycova and Jelena Ostapenko, the latter retiring at 1-4 in the third! Davis had impressed with her movement, footwork and timing all week and this proved too much for Konjuh in the Final. The Croat getting ousted 6/3 6/1, this being the Americans maiden title.

In Shenzhen, the top three seeds of Radwanska,Halep and Konta looked a strong line up! A-Rad got beat by last years runner-up Alison Riske in the last 8 encounter,6/0 in the third. The American backed this up by taking out Camilla Giorgi in straights to book her place in the Final.  Simona Halep got out gunned by  20 year old Katerina Siniakova, who also took care of Konta in the Semi after losing the first set 1/6. The Final didn’t really live up to expectations, but it was Siniakova who handled the occasion a lot better. She prevailed in an edgy encounter 6/3 6/4. However, there can be no doubt these were the two outstanding performers on show from China last week.

There was an early casualty in Chennai, as Top seed Marin Cilic lost to Slovakia’s Jozef Kovalik 7/5 in the third. Second Seed Roberto Bautista Agut took advantage of this, despite having a huge scare against Mikhail Youzhny in the last eight! Youzhny has impressive form over the years in Chennai, but managed to blow a 2/6 1-4 lead.Winning only four more games in the match. From here on in Bautista showed his class and consistency, with a straight sets win over Benoit Paire and a 6/3 6/4 victory of Daniil Medvedev in the Finale. This was a career best week for Medvedev though and the Russian (who always looks highly rated in betting markets)  at 20 years of age should take a lot of positives from India.

The Hopman Cup In Perth saw the return of Roger Federer. Despite straight sets victories  over Richard Gasquet and Brit Dan Evans, he was beaten in 3 tie-break sets by Alex Zverev. It was a  positive week for the former world number one, but its a big ask for him to beat these lads at the top.Dan Evans and Heather Watson left empty handed with three defeats. Evans losing to Federer,Gasquet and Zverev all in straights but no disgrace in that. Though I’m sure he will be disappointed! Watson did fair better in taking sets off Belinda Bencic and Kristina Mladenovic, before beating Andrea Petkovic in straights. Nick Kyrgios also put in an appearance here (so nice of him), recording victories over Feli Lopez and Adam Pavlasek before being destroyed by Jack Sock. The Final between France and the USA went down the wire after Gasquet beat Sock in a final set breaker. Coco Vandeweghe levelled it up after beating Mladenovic. The Mixed Doubles was won by the French pairing of Gasquet/Mladenovic thus handing themselves the title.

There were three  Challengers last week. In Noumea, top seed Adrian Mannarino beat Serbian Nikola Milojevic 6/3 7/5. In Happy Valley, the German Peter Gojowczyk took out 19 year old Omar Jasika 6/3 6/1. Finally in Bangkok, 5th seeded veteran Janko Tipsarevic beat Slovenian Blaz Kavcic 6/3 7/6.

Sorry for the length of this article, there was just so much on this week.