Who Will Stay Calm and Be Well in Indian Wells?
So, how's your week been going?
Now can we finally get back to... hmmm, what's it called again? Oh, yeah. Tennis.
Not that it matters, of course, since it's easier for the masses to spin drama and controversy, thinly veil long-held animosities with so-called definitive statements without any real base of knowledge and take the golden opportunity presented them to disparage, question, accuse and -- because it's "fun" and, more importantly, easy "click bait" -- attempt to incidentally sully the reputation and soil the veracity of any and all words and accomplishments of a WTA athlete suddenly thrust into the eye of a specific storm partly, but not solely, of her own making.
Often times that previous paragraph could be used to reference the latest cooked-up "controversial" moment surrounding the careers of players like Serena Williams or Victoria Azarenka, but this time the seal has been broken on the mother lode of a decades-worth of deeply-held gripes and jealousies, personal paybacks and attacks dressed up to resemble defenses by "fans" of certain opponents who really don't need those sort of "friends," as well as an overall, oh, what would you call it? Oh, yeah, "joy" in some corners that an athlete who has expertly managed to stay above the fray for over a decade may have something even remote resembling feet of clay.
How sweet, fresh meat. "Give me a generous portion -- and make it a primo cut, dude."
Maria Sharapova's act of admitting on Monday that she failed a drug test at the Australian Open for a drug called meldonium, which she said she's been taking for ten years for numerous health issues (personal and family history-related) but didn't become a banned substance until January 1 of this year, in two short days has, as is typically the case, put the WTA in the headlines that the tour is routinely shut out of over the course of the sports year when something other than lazy jumping to conclusions, armchair psychoanalysis and attempted character assassination are trumped (small "T") by the "chore" of having to actually watch matches, cover results or just about anything that might revolve around the burden of having to know virtually anything about the topic at hand.
You know, sort of like running for the Republican nomination for president in the United States. Who needs any knowledge when you can shout the loudest?
Some have posited that Sharapova's failed drug test will "change women's tennis forever." Yeah, maybe, but not in the way so many may be hoping... err, I mean suggesting. Silly me. It's so difficult to tell the difference when the usual anti-WTA suspects start spouting, you know? If anything, this week simply cements the general sports and news media's propensity to shrug off the actual sport in question and instead report on the women's tour as if it's an ongoing episode of "The Real Non-Housewives of the WTA," complete with weekly scandals, climbing-over-the-table fights and petty arguments. Because, you know, how else are "we" to cover a women's sport -- even the most successful and lucrative one on the planet -- in a way that everyone (read: people who follow men's sports) can relate to?
And the perfect irony is that this all occurred on a Tuesday that was also International Women's Day. Or maybe it's not so ironic, after all, actually.
The Sharapova failed drug test is the perfect Wild West story for the internet sports age, fit to be framed in any way, shape or form by any Tom, Dick, Jane, Harry, Bob, Carol, Ted or Alice. Who cares if what anyone says is unerringly right or unacceptably wrong -- and, make no mistake, no one will EVER know the ENTIRE story, or if we do some will still twist it so that it continues to fit into their petty, self-serving scenario -- when raising eyebrows and/or putting a new (or old) target on blast is so much more pleasantly time-consuming.
Pity it doesn't actually work like that. At least not totally. Sharapova will always carry a little of the sting of the past few days no matter how things turn out.
If for nothing else because it pulled the curtain back on a whole host of individuals and entities who delight in trying to poke holes in her story (even going so far as bemoaning her being "allowed" to get ahead of and "control" the story by making her announcement before the unfiltered release of the news of the test was made public, as if she doesn't have that right) or who'd rather remain silent than show even the slightest compassion in a difficult situation (at least Serena Williams, who knows something about being publicly assailed, stepped up and offered some form of support... there may be no love lost there, but there's also no need to pile on). Oh, and did I mention the cowardly sponsors and business partners (hello, Nike, Porsche, and TAG Heuer) who callously choose to run for cover at the fight sight of a "fine print" speed bump?
"You mean you might not be a cash cow for us this week or for a short period of time? Ummm, who are you again? Have we ever met? Next!".
Or how about those individuals who quickly jump to the defense of those business partners/cowards with nakedly-revealing-their-lack-of-current-knowlege comments about such actions being smart because a 28-year old Sharapova is "old" and they're seizing the long-desired opportunity to "cut ties" before she's some sort of washed-up version of her younger self because, you know, "she always loses to Serena" and "30 is ancient" in tennis since thirtysomething (or nearly so) players never win anything in the sport these days. Well, if you don't count the last six slams (and 12 of 15) on the women's side, and a men's tour dominated by a handful of players aged 28 to 34, that is.
But why bother with facts? Such as the "minor" one that Sharapova is as much of a force is business off the court as she has been on it over the years.
What we do know is that the medicine that Sharapova has been taking was perfectly legal in the eyes of the sport for ten years, just as it was ten weeks ago. In all, she played FIVE matches with the substance in her system less than a month after it was deemed "unlawful." Less than a blip and, in truth, inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. In a right-thinking sports world -- which, unfortunately, doesn't actually exist -- she wouldn't be suspended at all, would be moderately fined, docked prize money and rankings points and we'd all go about our business. But, of course, that won't happen. Sharapova will be suspended, just as other players who have tested positive for doctor-prescribed/administered or accidentally ingested newly-banned substances have been.
While, in my opinion, the whole testing issue is a farce -- as I have been for a very long time, I'm of the mind that no substances should be banned from competition, and only testing for illicit drugs such as cocaine, heroin and such should ever be administered, and then solely as a means of looking out for the health and well-being of the athletes, as agreed to by each sport's players' unions or equivalent bodies -- the rules are the rules and Sharapova, as she rightfully admitted as she took full responsibility (even if, on some level, she could have spread around the blame around to her what-am-I-paying-you-people-for? team), has run afoul of them. My fear in the matter is that the governing agencies will choose to "make an example" of her and attempt to punish her more harshly than others in similar circumstances in an effort to avoid any accusations of "favoritism." Call it akin to "pulling a Tom Brady," i.e. something similar to the NFL's "Deflategate" attempts to overly punish the New England Patriot quarterback for a minor and inconsequential offense that has resulted in something less than a slap on the wrist and minor fines in previous cases with other teams and individuals.
Barbora Strycova was handed down a six-month ban in 2012-13 after testing positive for a stimulant, while Marin Cilic appealed down a longer suspension to something of similar length not long ago, as well. Either way, while a 2-4 year ban (it'd be ridiculous if the attempt is made to stick that on her, but it's something which Sharapova obviously fears if her "I don't want to end my career this way, and I really hope I will be given another chance" comment is taken as the pleading-for-mercy attempt it appeared to be) is "possible," something in the range of a 3-9 month suspension (still ridiculous under the circumstances, but more par for the course) would seem to be more likely. Either way, it seems a good bet she'll miss the Olympics.
Some may question the believability of a world-class athlete failing to check the list of the newly-banned substances in the days before the start of a new season, although it's happened before, or that a control-freak like Sharapova would ever NOT have three or four levels of "security" to prevent such things from occurring. It's a valid point, for sure. But, well, it would seem that that's either truly the case or she crazily believed that her urine was somehow immune to the testing that would detect the newly-illegal drug in the urine of another player not named "Maria Sharapova." Now, Maria's tennis career precluded her from pursuing a chemistry or medical degree... but she's a smart woman, and I doubt that she takes her cues from something akin to the sort of pseudo-science that has spawned the anti-vaccination lunacy in her adopted U.S. home. So...
And, remember, "control-freak" Sharapova once put her trust in a team of medical professionals who, despite so much being at stake, managed to misdiagnose a shoulder injury that nearly ended her career. It seems fairly obvious an easily-avoidable mistake was nonetheless made by one of the most famous athletes in the world. She can't be both a devious, decade-long "cheater" (as some would so dearly love to dub her, and have tried to do this week) AND someone careless/cavalier enough to continue to knowingly take a drug that was listed as being newly banned in an email sent to her just a few weeks earlier. It makes no sense, of course... but, no matter, in the closely-held fantasies of some she's exactly that, I suppose. Deceitfully at fault on one hand, and arrogant or cavalierly so on the other.
Isn't it lovely when the human mind can equivocate so brilliantly, and blindly?
Speaking of which, one of the dark alleys this story has managed to turn down has been to shine an exasperating light on the perpetually eye-rolling Twitter feed of a former world #1 with a checkered past who has chosen to spend far too much time trying to pick apart Sharapova's words and actions and accuse her of "cheating for ten years" despite the fact that the "cheating agent" in question has actually been banned for closer to ten days. On Tuesday on ABC's "Good Morning America," though, the Hall-of-Famer-in-question's tweet was placed directly opposite on the screen next to a supportive and reasoned response from Martina Navratilova about what seems like an "honest mistake" by the Russian, as if the sources were in any way equal and/or had the same, hmmm, let's just say "maturity," sense of decency or public decorum. Most people watching GMA likely only know the multiple slam-winning former "American sweetheart" from a decade or two ago rather than as the current Twitter hawk whose eyeroll-worthy online rants usually make her sound like someone this side of a crank living on the side of a mountain who's locked up in a shack with the feds at the door while she's screaming something barely intelligible about not giving up her gun until they pry it from her cold, dead hands.
But why consider the source when it's easier to simply dump the preaching/accusations at the feet of a few millions viewers who don't know any better. Typical.
As for whether or not the Latvian-produced drug is FDA approved or not... really? The U.S. Food and Drug Administraton will approve anything if the big pharmaceutical entities push and pay hard enough, and would surely have relieved us all of the whole "steriods era" hand-wringing in American team sports had the drug companies been able to find a way to dip their grubby hands into the money pool and found a way to make "performance-enhancing drugs" (PED's) profitable on their end before anyone was told they should be "outraged" about them in the 1980's. Gauging the value of a drug solely on whether it's FDA-approved is like judging a "playoff" to be a legit "playoff" only if the USTA is the organizing body of said "playoff." Whether a drug is approved by the FDA, or not, is only a fact. Nothing more, nothing less.
Personally, I take Sharapova at her word about this all being a big mistake. But, honestly, I couldn't care less even if that wasn't the case.
We're all (or most) adults here, and there. If someone wants to take something that might harm them later, it's their choice and there should never be any "bans" for it. In my eyes, the notion of "PED's" are a myth in most all respects, as everything an athlete does in preparation for their chosen sport -- be it training regimens or diets, or using "banned" or non-"banned" substances that help improve blood flow, recuperation or energy levels -- is, in fact, a "performance-enhancing" effort. Hence, what is so-called "illegal" today was "legal" a few months ago, as will be the case with something else that is fine today, but won't be a year from now. It's all interchangeable, or eventually will be. If a human body is capable of attaining a certain physical level or condition with the help of a legal and/or banned drug than it is an achievable athletic condition, and there is nothing "artificial" about it. So be it.
But, hey... that's just my opinion. Everyone else can be the arbiters of everyone else's personal responsibility and individual body decisions if they wish, I guess. It's just not in my job description as a fellow human... but I do reserve the right to judge those who seek to judge others, though. Who watches the watchers and all that jazz, right?
But, hey, at least we now know that whenever Sharapova DOES choose to announce her retirement it won't be at a press conference held at "a downtown L.A. hotel with a fairly ugly carpet."
That's good to know. Really.
In fact, one could make a case that that little off-hand nugget of information was arguably the most significant news of the week in this whole mess, no matter what anyone else says.
A year ago, Serena Williams returned to Indian Wells after a fourteen-year absence. Well, with Venus returning to the event this time around, what I said last year holds up pretty well. So, why not use it all again? Updated and amended a bit to reflect the moment, of course:
Yes, for the first time in fifteen years, Venus Williams will be in Indian Wells, officially closing out the remaining half of the personal boycott by both Williams Sisters -- despite threats of fines and ranking point penalties over the years -- that began after Venus withdrew from an all-Williams semifinal in '01. At the time, if you remember, one stupid line of thought was that Richard Williams was directing the results of matches between his daughters and deciding behind the scenes who should advance. See? The desire to personally attack even the WTA's good stories is something that some have traditionally never been able to resist.
In that atmosphere, Serena was booed loudly when she took the court for the final (which she won over Kim Clijsters), and was sometimes met with derisive calls from the crowd during play, as well. In the awards ceremony, she was booed still more. A few weeks later, Richard claimed that racial slurs were directed toward his daughter from the stands. Both Sisters stood by the event boycott until Serena announced in February '15 her decision to return, which she did a month later. Ironically, she was ultimately forced to retire from her semifinal match last year, and she smartly took to the court before the match to personally address the fans, explain her decision (due to a knee injury) and promise to return in '16.
She has, with Venus along with her. Of course, the Sisters could meet in the quarterfinals.
So much has changed since Serena and Venus both last set foot in the California desert with rackets in their hands. Setting aside the fact that it was still six months BEFORE 9/11, just looking at the WTA rankings at the start of the '01 Indian Wells event produces a bit of a flashback shock. For example:
1. Martina Hingis, SUI (#1 again at the moment, but in doubles -- and looking to defend her '15 title w/ Mirza)
2. Lindsay Davenport, USA
3. Venus Williams, USA
4. Monica Seles, USA
5. Jennifer Capriati, USA (back when she didn't make you roll your eyes)
There were five U.S. women ranked in the Top 10, and seven in the Top 20. These singles rankings were current:
8. Amanda Coetzer, RSA
9. Anna Kournikova, RUS (the top Hordette in singles, and doubles -- at #3)
10. Serena Williams, USA
The Belgians were rising:
19. Kim Clijsters, BEL
21. Justine Henin, BEL (see below!)
And the early pioneers of the 2000's Russian Tennis Revolution were inching upward...
11. Elena Dementieva
28. Elena Likhovtseva
58. Anastasia Myskina (Paris was three years away)
67. Nadia Petrova
72. Lina Krasnoroutskaya (oh, pity lamentably lost career of Lina K, who'd reach the RG QF a few months later)
353. Vera Zvonareva, RUS (at sweet 16)
672. Dinara Safina, RUS (at 14)
915. Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS (at 15)
Meanwhile, this past weekend's ITF challenger champ Dayana Yastremska was still two months away from celebrating her FIRST birthday.
Other news aside, today (Tuesday) was also a GOOD day we all knew was coming, but it was still nice to see the confirmation become official as the Original Face of Backspin has been elected to the Tennis Hall of Fame.
Congrats La Petit Taureau. Looks like there will be TWO versions of Justine Henin Day here at Backspin HQ in 2016.
**INDIAN WELLS FINALS - since 1997**
1997 Lindsay Davenport d. Irina Spirlea
1998 Martina Hingis d. Lindsay Davenport
1999 Serena Williams d. Stefi Graf
2000 Lindsay Davenport d. Martina Hingis
2001 Serena Williams d. Kim Clijsters
2002 Daniela Hantuchova d. Martina Hingis
2003 Kim Clijsters d. Lindsay Davenport
2004 Justine Henin d. Lindsay Davenport
2005 Kim Clijsters d. Lindsay Davenport
2006 Maria Sharapova d. Elena Dementieva
2007 Daniela Hantuchova d. Svetlana Kuznetsova
2008 Ana Ivanovic d. Svetlana Kuznetsova
2009 Vera Zvonareva d. Ana Ivanovic
2010 Jelena Jankovic d. Caroline Wozniacki
2011 Caroline Wozniacki d. Marion Bartoli
2012 Victoria Azarenka d. Maria Sharapova
2013 Maria Sharapova d. Caroline Wozniacki
2014 Flavia Pennetta d. Aga Radwanska
2015 Simona Halep d. Jelena Jankovic
[doubles champions - since 1999]
1999 Marthina Hingis & Anna Kournikova
2000 Lindsay Davenport & Corina Morariu
2001 Nicole Arendt & Ai Sugiyama
2002 Lisa Raymond & Rennae Stubbs
2003 Lindsay Davenport & Lisa Raymond
2004 Virginia Ruano Pascual & Paola Suarez
2005 Virginia Ruano Pascual & Paola Suarez
2006 Lisa Raymond & Samantha Stosur
2007 Lisa Raymond & Samantha Stosur
2008 Dinara Safina & Elena Vesnina
2009 Victoria Azarenka & Vera Zvonareva
2010 Kveta Peschke & Katarina Srebotnik
2011 Sania Mirza & Elena Vesnina
2012 Liezel Huber & Lisa Raymond
2013 Ekaterina Makarova & Elena Vesnina
2014 Hsieh Su-Wei & Peng Shuai
2015 Martina Hingis & Sania Mirza
**MOST INDIAN WELLS FINALS**
6...Lindsay Davenport (2-4)
3...Steffi Graf (2-1)
3...Maria Sharapova (2-1) *
3...Kim Clijsters (2-1)
3...Martina Hingis (1-2) *
3...Caroline Wozniacki (1-2) *
2...Martina Navratilova (2-0)
2...Serena Williams (2-0) *
2...Daniela Hantuchova (2-0) *
2...Mary Joe Fernandez (2-0)
2...Monica Seles (1-1)
2...Ana Ivanovic (1-1) *
2...Jelena Jankovic (1-1) *
2...Amanda Coetzer (0-2)
2...Svetlana Kuznetsova (0-2) *
2...Conchita Martinez (0-2)
* - active
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA USA (Premier Mandatory $6.134m/hard outdoor)
15 Final: Halep d. Jankovic
15 Doubles Final: Hingis/Mirza d. Makarova/Vesnina
16 Top Seeds: S.Williams/Kerber
=ROUND OF 16=
#1 S.Williams d. #15 Errani
#10 V.Williams d. #5 Halep (the DC will face either King or qualifier Townsend first)
#3 A.Radwanska d. Vandeweghe
(Q) Kr.Pliskova d. #29 Lisicki (which Pliskova will last longer?)
#7 Bencic d. #9 Vinci (toss-up)
#4 Muguruza d. #13 Azarenka
#21 Stephens d. Kasatkina
#14 Ivanovic d. #2 Kerber
...Stephens and Bouchard could face off in a very interesting, whose-cup-is-REALLY-half-full? 2nd Rounder. AnaIvo? Yeah, that one makes me nervous.
#1 S.Williams d. #10 V.Williams
#3 A.Radwanska d. (Q) Kr.Pliskova (buying a lottery ticket here rather than going with Kvitova or Keys)
#4 Muguruza d. #7 Bencic
#21 Stephens d. #14 Ivanovic
...fifteen years after the fact, Serena vs. Venus finally happens in Indian Wells.
Hmmm, the first step for Kvitova?
#1 S.Williams d. #3 A.Radwanska
#4 Muguruza d. #21 Stephens
...can Garbi hold up -- physcially and/or mentally, after a slow start in '16 -- this long? If she can, maybe she DOES know everything. Will Future Sloane don the hat? Maybe she should take things slowly...
#1 S.Williams d. #4 Muguruza
...unfinished business. For Garbi, to be continued.
#1 Hingis/Mirza d. #6 Garcia/Mladenovic
Mattek-Sands/Vandeweghe d. #5 Makarova/Safarova
...The Dreamers have a rough draw, with Dellacqua/Stosur in the 1st Round and either Kasatkina/Vesnina (who ended their 41-match streak) or Muguruza/Suarez-Navarro in the 3rd. The mismatched doubles teams continue in the bottom half, as a returning Safarova (w/ Makarova, no longer playing with fellow '15 finalist Vesnina) could face usual doubles partner Mattek-Sands (w/ Vandeweghe) in the semis. Of course, that's only if the all-Bannerette duo can take out the #2-seeded Chans in the 2nd Round.
#1 Hingis/Mirza d. Mattek-Sands/Vandeweghe
...Hingis/Mirza celebrate their one-year anniversary by defending the first title they ever won together.
By the way, I'll be posting a mid-I.W. update next week, as well.
As for the men...
=Round of 16=
Djokovic d. Lopez
Thiem d. Tsonga
Dimitrov d. Verdasco
Isner d. Nishikori
Cilic d. Gasquet
Wawrinka d. Goffin
Raonic d. del Potro
Murray d. Monfils
Djokovic d. Thiem
Isner d. Dimitrov
Wawrinka d. Cilic
Raonic d. Murray
Djokovic d. Isner
Raonic d. Wawrinka
Djokovic d. Raonic
Before I go, here's ATP Backspin's Galileo West with his take on the women's and men's draws:
=ROUND OF SIXTEEN PREDICTIONS=
#1 S.Williams d. #24 Pavlyuchenkova
#10 V.Williams d. #5 Halep
#3 A.Radwanska d. #16 Kuznetsova
#8 Kvitova d. #23 Keys
#7 Bencic d. #17 Svitolina
#13 Azarenka d. #4 Muguruza
#6 Suarez-Navarro d. #21 Stephens
#2 Kerber d. #18 Ka.Pliskova
...Serena is back and while she may be in questionable form, she is always the percentage play. Mladenovic will trouble her a little but she won’t drop a set until the semi-finals. I trust A-Pavs a tad more than Errani. This draw is a great chance for the Russian to continue her rise. Peng returns here, too. I love a sentimental pick and Venus returning, combined with a soft draw, are too much for me to resist. Petkovic and Makarova are both dangerous but Halep will grind to the quarters, where Venus comes through against the inconsistent 5th seed. Cibulkova is back and could run right into Radwanska. Aga will be fine with this draw, though. Her opponent is either Sveta or JJ and I’m a sucker for an ambitious Sveta pick. This has been well documented and it continues. Hey, at least I’m going with seedings. Neither Keys nor Safarova look like going on a run, but home support could be a vital factor.
Kvitova should be good enough to outmuscle the other big-hitters here. Lisicki looks dangerous, but we aren’t on grass here. Bencic’s form will continue here. Gavrilova and Robson will be dangerous. Svitolina will get past Vinci but no further. Garcia versus Mchale is a great first round. This quarter is crazy. Azarenka, Wozniacki, Stosur and Muguruza. Azarenka is going to explode at several events this year. Could this be one of them? Bouchard and Pironkova lurk here, and Timea is there for the taking. I choose to put faith in Stephens, though not enough that I think she’ll beat CSN. Goerges versus Giorgi will involve fireworks in the bottom quarter. Pliskova over Ivanovic seems a new brainer and Kerber is Kerber. But she's still looking for her for first tour win since she won in Melbourne.
#1 S.Williams d. #10 V.Williams
#3 A.Radwanska d. #8 Kvitova
#13 Azarenka d. #7 Bencic
#2 Kerber d. #6 Suarez-Navarro
...Venus could take a set, but that’s the only question mark in this match. Serena has stopped Venus a lot recently, especially when the elder Williams was just getting hot. Radwanska struggles mightily against Kvitova, but Petra is so inconsistent that she isn’t a reliable semi-final pick at all. Aga will get to the semi-finals unless Petra can find consistency. I’ve picked Azarenka and now I have to roll with it. If she gets going, she’s going to do really well. But can she get it going? And Kerber has had the Spaniard’s number this year.
#1 S.Williams d. #3 A.Radwanska
#13 Azarenka d. #2 Halep
...Predictable again, I’m afraid. Williams will tear Radwanska apart again. What else is new? Radwanska has no weapons whatsoever. She’s using pistols to try and kill the Terminator. And Azarenka has a 6-1 head-to-head advantage over the German. She lost the last match, but she will win this one.
#1 S.Williams d. #13 Azarenka
...I don’t think I need to say much here. Williams is just too efficient in finals for the Belarusian.
Hingis/Mirza d. Garcia/Mladenovic
Chan/Chan d. Babos/Shvedova
Hingis/Mirza d. Chan/Chan
...losing just a single set all tournament.
Now, the men:
=ROUND OF SIXTEEN PREDICTIONS=
#1 Djokovic d. #14 Bautista-Agut
#11 Thiem d. #7 Tsonga
#16 Simon d. #4 Nadal
#9 Isner d. #5 Nishikori
#8 Gasquet d. Mayer
#3 Wawrinka d. #15 Goffin
#6 Bedych d. #12 Raonic
#2 Murray d. #24 Kyrgios
...Youzhny and Gulbis lurk. Could it be the Russian’s last trip here? Nothing to fear here for Novak, but the Spaniard Agut has shown a knack for reaching his seeding. Sock and Querrey will be dangerous with home support and seeding protection, but Thiem is on a roll right now. Tsonga is neither here nor there, unless Gasquet is by his side. Zverev and Verdasco are dangerous here, but Simon is too consistent not to make it. Dimitrov hasn’t shown enough thus far. And Nadal is not a top ten player right now, but he is still Nadal. Anything could happen.
This is one of the tournaments where Isner always shows up. Put that with a home crowd and a recent win away in the Davis Cup and he’s dangerous. Paire is here, too, but picking him is impossible. Kei will make the fourth easily.
Dolgopolov, Troicki and Cilic are the other seeds in this quarter. Enough said. Kyle Edmund could make a run here and so could Fritz, but I think the seeds hold firm. Berdych has Del Potro, then Bellucci or Coric. Then he has Raonic. And then he has Murray. Not fun at all. Almagro is hanging around, too, in this loaded quarter. Murray will be fine. But how does one predict Kyrgios versus Monfils? I think on the big stage Kyrgios is king. He will make it to the fourth round, despite hitting on the Mayor’s wife, robbing a bank and donating his stolen money to the poor. Throw in some aces, as well. And a profanity that causes the commentators to say ‘sorry if you heard that.’
#1 Djokovic d. #11 Thiem
#9 Isner d. #16 Simon
#3 Wawrinka d. #8 Gasquet
#2 Murray d. #6 Berdych
...One day Thiem will beat Djokovic. But I suspect it won’t be any time this year. However, this does bring back memories from when Djokovic lost to Haas in the desert a few years back. If or when Nadal loses, the draw opens up. If Isner goes on a run, he is going to beat whoever comes out of that quarter. For Ritchie there will be no Wimbledon magic this time round. If Stan is going on this kind of a roll, he’s going to get past Gasquet. This could still be the match of the tournament. Berdych never beats Andy, plus he has a difficult draw. Expect a breaker but Murray to win.
#1 Djokovic d. #9 Isner
#3 Wawrinka d. #2 Murray
...Isner could upset Djokovic again, but he is not the percentage pick here. He may well take a set but the Djoker will have the last word. I cannot stand the thought of another Murray versus Djokovic final. Blrgh. Boring, predictable and unwatchable. So let’s hope Stan pulls it out.
#1 Djokovic d. #3 Wawrinka
...Novak will win this tournament barring injury or a freak occurrence. But this should be an entertaining romp nonetheless. Look for the up-the-line backhand from Wawrinka to be key again. Also watch out for the Djokovic serve to the Wawrinka forehand, particularly down the ‘t.’
And I’m out. Thanks all. See you soon!
All for now.