Citi Open Preview – Marin Cilic v Kei Nishikori

For the ninth time in their careers Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic will do battle on the ATP tour with Kei Nishikori leading the head to head 5-3 however it is Marin Cilic who won the important won defeating Kei in the US Open final 6-3 6-3 6-3 last year and this is their first meeting since the final in New York.

Getting to semi-finals is what you would expect from the two however I wouldn’t say they have performed to a level this week or recently on the tour where I would say they can challenge for this big titles over the next month or so. In all honesty at the end of last season the talk was about the upcoming talents of Cilic, Nishikori, Raonic and Dimitrov and it hasn’t really happened as none of these players in my opinion have improved over the last 9 months.

I expect it to be a very interesting match. Cilic is obviously a threat via his serve and Nishikori has to find a way to impose himself on the Cilic service game like he did against Sam Groth in the previous round however he won’t get as many cheap points as he did against Groth. Nishikori has played quite a defensive game at times this week but Cilic is powerful from the baseline so maybe a more pro-active game might benefit Kei more.

At the same time Cilic has struggled to break down his opponents winning his last two matches against Querrey and Zvereve 7-6 7-6 7-5 7-6. To win those three tie-break is great but for a player of his quality and wanting to be a consistent top 10 player he should be trying to finish off some matches a bit easier. For example he led Zverev 7-5 3-1 but was taken to a tie-break by the German. If Nishikori can return serve well I do think he is favourite in baseline rallies with his excellent defensive skills but like I said earlier on in the piece Nishikori has to look forward as well otherwise holding serve might be a bit of a training exercise for him.

I can’t really pick a winner in this one. I haven’t been impressed by either player this week but one of them will be in the final. Nishikori has defended well and has benefited from a lot of errors but will he get the same error count from Cilic I doubt it. I want to see both players play their very best, if both can get to that level then I believe Kei will win but he can’t let Cilic get comfortably on serve.

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Citi Open Preview – Louisa Chirico v Sloane Stephens

I think I need to apologise to Louisa Chirico after writing her off in my preview of her match against Great Britain’s Heather Watson and she ended up beating Watson comfortably and then defeating the 5th seed Alize Cornet in three sets and standing in her way of a place in the next round is fellow American Sloane Stephens.

This is where the wildcard system works so well on the tour as players who don’t get a chance to qualify for the main draw via their ranking get a chance to showcase with a wildcard and are suddenly the headline maker at a tournament. I still think there is a flaw with the wildcard system as some players pick up an awful lot yearly without really earning it and should be done on results and not just because the tournament is played in your country.

Sloane will be a tough opponent for Louisa however it could depend on what Sloane Stephens turns up. Sometimes I think Sloane beats herself on a tennis court, she plays an explosive game at the back of the court and if it isn’t at 100% then it’s a style which can generate a lot errors and ends up losing matches she should be winning. Sloane is still only 22 but had a lot of success earlier on in her career and this year has been a bit like a comeback year for her and has reappointed her old coach Nick Saviano but results have gone a bit quiet recently with her being unseeded for the tournament.

Before the tournament I’ve got to be honest I never heard of Louisa Chirico before but watching her this week I have been impressed. She was very calm against Watson and controlled rallies on the baseline throughout the match and was even better against Alize Cornet to fight to win in three sets. I do think Sloane is a contender for the title however could we be set for another upset?

Caroline Wozniacki defeated in Washington!

For the first time in her career Caroline Wozniacki has lost to Varvara Lepchenko taking their head to head record to 4/1. The Dane looked set for the next round with her head to head record against the American however a match is never won on paper and Wozniacki has suffered another early loss taking her win/loss for the year to 30/14 which isn’t very good for a top 6 player. Since Rome Wozniacki has a win/loss record of 7/5 and hasn’t got any momentum going this year with her 6-4 6-2 loss to Lepchenko.

Other Results – Stanford

Angelique Kerber defeats Ana Konjuh – 6-4 6-3
Karolina Pliskova defeats Kimiko Date-Krum – 7-5 6-2
Agnieszka Radwanska defeats Misaki Doi – 1-6 6-2 6-0 (was 1-6 2-0 down)

Other Results – Washington

Ricardis Berankis defeats Teymuraz Gabashvili – 7-5 6-4
Jack Sock defeats Richard Gasquet – 6-7 7-6 6-4
Alexander Zverev defeats Alexandr Dolgopolov – 2-6 6-2 6-4
Sam Groth defeats Feliciano Lopez – 6-3 6-4
John Isner defeats Vasek Pospisil – 6-4 7-6
Steve Johnson defeats Grigor Dimitrov – 6-3 1-6 6-3
Marin Cilic defeats Sam Querrey – 7-6 7-6
Kei Nishikori defeats Leonardo Mayer – 6-4 6-4

Andy Murray defeated in Washington!

British number one and the top seed in Washington this year lost his second round match to Teymuraz Gabashvili ranked 53 in the world from Russia.

The defeat is a major surprise with the Brit in great form this year with his only loss since February being against a player named either Federer or Djokovic. At a point in the match Murray did lead 6-4 4-6 5-4 and was serving for the match before being broken and going on to lose the match in a tie-breaker 7-4.

Despite defeat Murray was quite upbeat after the match saying:

“It was the first hard-court match for four-and-a-half months with only four or five days of preparation, so I was happy with how I moved and did certain things on court.”

Murray is due to play in Montreal next week at a Masters 1000 event where he is the second seed due to Federer’s withdrawal from the tournament.

Broady wins in three, 500 wins for Stosur & Lisicki loses from 6-1 4-1 up…

Naomi Broady defeats Jarmila Gajdosova 3-6 7-5 7-6!

Noami Broady is through to round two at the Citi Open after an epic win against the Australian Gajdosova. The match did look like getting away from the Brit at 3-2 in the first set when she went on to lose 5 games in a row and found herself 6-3 1-0 down but managed to get back into the rhythm of the match in the second set and broke at the last minute to take it 7-5. The deciding set there was nothing to separate them so it eventually went to a tie-break and at 3-2 to Broady play was suspended for a few minutes due to rain but that didn’t bother Naomi who went on to win 3-6 7-5 7-6 (8-6)

500 wins for Sam Stosur!

One of the underrated players on the tour reached a career landmark last night with her 500th career win coming against Kristina Mladenovic from France. Sam is a very talented player with just 8 career titles to her name one of which the US Open. Sam’s achievements on the singles and doubles tour have been incredible during her career so far and I expect more success for her in the future!

Lisicki loses from 6-1 4-1 up…

It’s a match to forget for Sabine Lisicki as at 6-1 4-1 up in the match you’d expect her to go on to win but qualifier Kimiko Date-Krumm who turns 45 next month had other ideas as she fought back to win 1-6 7-6 6-2 against the German! To lose from that position is shocking and watching highlights of the match she was running the show and then completely let it go and credit to Date-Krumm who never gave up to secure the win!

Citi Open 2015 Preview – Kevin Anderson v Alexander Zverev

After winning his first round match against Nishioka in Washington rising star Alexander Zverev has set up a round two meeting against Kevin Anderson who has had a very good year on the tour so far.

This will be the first time these two have met and it will be interesting to see the match and how Zverev deals with the big serve of Anderson and if he can control rallies.

I watched Zverev recently and I do believe he can be a very good player but I’m not sure whether he has a game right now which can cause trouble for Anderson. Zverev went 4-0 down v Robredo in Hamburg not long ago but did end up winning the set 7-6 after a good comeback but something I noticed was an issue with the backhand especially whilst defending.

zverev 1

Above I have put together Zverev behind the baseline using the two handed backhand and attacking inside the baseline using it and the German definitely has more joy attacking off it than he does defending. Red shows a defending backhand and yellow shows an attacking one. With the red I believe it’s a good defensive weapon but trying to generate depth and power from a metre or two behind the baseline is very difficult however on a more attacking side this shot gives you more options as shown with the yellow lines as the court is open to aim at any spot you’d like. In my opinion especially on a hard court and against the power of Anderson I’d be looking to sit just on or just behind/inside the baseline and not a couple of metres behind.

I believe his best weapon is the one handed forehand. It’s less predictable than the backhand and the pace and depth he gets on the shot at times is incredible!

zvreve 2

I’ve put this graphic together showing the forehand of Zverev in the first set v Robredo at Hamburg. You can see the angles he creates with this shot are incredible and the two red lines show forehand winners both of which were in the tie-break the yellow lines just show great forehands which weren’t winners but a majority went on to set up winners off the backhand.

As well as his own strength’s he is going to have to somehow battle the Anderson serve.

Not only do you have to deal with the speed of the serve over 130mph but the bounce on the serve as well. I watched a clip of him serving against David Ferrer at Indian Wells a couple of years ago and Ferrer is 175cm tall and the ball bounced at least 185cm in air which is incredible so you have to make sure your court position is deep behind the baseline and not trying to take it on or committing to either side too early.

When returning the serve as well you have to make sure you try and get good depth on the ball otherwise Anderson will step inside the baseline and find the gap and produce a winner/force an error.

Who will win this encounter? I’m going with Zverev in three sets but only just…

Citi Open 2015 Preview – Andy Murray v Teymuraz Gabashvili

This year is the first time since 2006 Andy Murray has played the CitiOpen in Washington with his last match there being in the final back in 2006 where he lost to current French Davis Cup captain Arnaud Clement 6-7 2-6. However 9 years later his first round opponent will be Teymuraz Gabashvili who beat Benjamin Becker 4-6 6-1 6-3 to advance to the second round.

I don’t really know too much about Gabashvili but have done some research into the Russian currently ranked at 53 in the world and a few weeks ago hit his career high of 50 and won his first ever doubles title.

Watching some highlights of his matches on YouTube he is a player who likes to go for big shots and to play a game like that you need to settle into the match and get into a rhythm quickly however playing against one of the best rhythm setters on the tour in Andy Murray it will be difficult to control the pace of the match.

Watching his game I would have to say his weakness in my opinion would be his return of serve and net play. Andy has one of the best serves on the tour but what does let him down is the second serve which sometimes is a free hit for the opponent and is something you would expect Gabashvili to try and exploit. However if Murray is on his serving game then it is very tough to stop him. Murray served impressively well throughout the tournaments in Miami and Madrid with very high percentages and even won 100% of points on 2nd serve against Lopez in the first set. We know Murray is one of the best players at producing stunning shots whether it is the lob or drop shot and will definitely cause problems for the Russian with these shots.

With all respect to Gabashvili I expect nothing less than a straight sets win for Murray with the winner of the match playing either Pablo Cuevas or Ricardas Berankis in the third round.