Stan’s ‘battling hard’ but will he be back to defend his title in New York?

By the time the US Open begins on the 28th of August it would have been 80 days since Stan Wawrinka won a tennis match a wait of almost three months since he defeated Andy Murray in the semi-finals of the French Open.

The defending US Open champion has withdrawn from the two Masters 1000 events in Montreal and Cincinnati that lead up to the final major of the year in New York but it is looking unlikely at the moment that Stan will participate in the tournament.

In a statement he said he is battling hard to be back fit in time for the US Open with this injury bothering him for at least 6 weeks now.

The news opens up the draw even more as there will be no Novak Djokovic in New York in a few weeks time and the race is on for the defending champion to be fit for Flushing Meadows.

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Feliciano brings flair and craft to see of Stan

Feliciano Lopez has kept his good form going with a very solid and creative performance to see off what looked like an injured Stan Wawrinka following the Spaniard’s title win last week in Stuttgart on the grass and with this form it does make him a dangerous player.

From the beginning of the match the whole feeling seemed a bit flat with if anything too comfortable for Feliciano in particular to hold serve with that big lefty serve, variety and that crafty play he brings to the court.

Towards the end of the match we saw more and more brilliance from the Spaniard who took advantage of the situation Stan was in with the recent French Open finalist seeming to have some issues with his knee and struggling to respond and react quickly enough to have a chance but one moment where Stan looked to have got the better of Lopez with a lob the Spaniard replied in style.

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Chasing down the lob his shot placement was perfect running around to go for that forehand down the line which he found!

On the other side it is a worrying time for Stan who after a long couple of weeks in Paris still doesn’t look ready for the grass being knocked out in the first round for the second year running at Queen’s and with this knee injury it puts chances of doing well at Wimbledon (a tournament he’s never been past the quarter finals in) in doubt.

Wawrinka falls short in Dubai!

Defending champion Stan Wawrinka’s run in Dubai ended before it got going. The Swiss number one fell short to Damir Dzumhur with a lack lustre performance ahead of Indian Wells.

Anywhere but there!

How many times do you watch a tennis match and see a player approach the net and think hit the ball anywhere but right at your opponent?

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Annoyingly you can’t actually see Dzumhur which shows as well how deep he is on the court but up until this point it was a perfectly constructed point by Stan until he approached the net, anyway but down the middle and he wins the point but there seemed to be a lack of composure from Stan.

Falling short

The other aspect of the match which Stan never got into was the push in the rallies. It was like watching a training session from his end but credit to Damir who did open up the court and had to work hard as well but Stan didn’t press him.

lack-of-depth

This isn’t 100% accurate to what happened in the match but it set the tone to be honest. Majority of rallies from Stan were landing here in the court as shown above. You can’t put a performance together that would win a match with literally no depth on the court.

It was inviting from Stan and like all good invitations Damir expected and despite the faults of Wawrinka deserved his win to advance in Dubai.

Clinical Kei breezes past Stan at the O2!

Clinical and control, just two words I would use to describe Kei Nishikori’s performance against Stan Wawrinka on Day 2 at the World Tour Finals. For Stan Wawrinka just the one word – disinterested. The US Open champion looked out of sorts and didn’t get into the rhythm of the match at all and was really disappointing.

How the first break set the tone

The first break of the match at 2-2 in set one set the tone for the match. Kei looked fresh and his game plan was spot on but for Stan it looked like a training session and it was poor from him.

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Someone who is renowned for his power and depth he get’s on the ball he set up Nishikori to take control so many times and no wonder the Japanese star was dominant in points won at the net and the baseline as the short ball sets you up for that control and Kei broke down the Swiss number one’s defence really well.

Stan didn’t turn up and now needs some big motivation to keep his chance of getting to the semi-finals alive but take nothing away from Kei, I have to say that was probably his most impressive performance of the season for me and it’s interesting to see it come in the final event of the year, has he just thrown his name into the hat of contenders or are we getting carried away?

Screenshot credit to SkySports

 

ATP World Tour Finals Preview – Stan Wawrinka v Kei Nishikori

Kei Nishikori might still be having nightmares of the last time he played Stan Wawrinka just a few months ago. The Japanese number one was 6-2 2-0 up against Wawrinka in New York and the Swiss number one went on to win and of course lift the title but what will be the keys in this meeting at the O2?

Kick serve + backhand

Opening up the court and being effective off the serve is tough. Stan is probably the best in the game at the kick serve out wide and following up with a stunning backhand. We saw Dominic Thiem do it against Djokovic but Stan is so much consistent with this shot than the Austrian.

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This serve is so devastating out-wide. Kei isn’t the tallest so the high bounce and speed of the court this year at the O2 will help the three time Grand Slam champion. You can see above how far wide this serve has pushed Kei and he still hasn’t made contact with the ball at this point, he will be outside the doubles tramline when he makes contact and in this position it’s lose/lose as it will be near on impossible to find the backhand up the line and safer option is backhand crosscourt but hey this is Stan, backhand crosscourt is not safe…

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This is Stan and Kei admiring that backhand down the line that Stan hit on the return. Not a chance.

forehand and follow!

On the baseline I do worry for Kei and what we saw work so well in the opening two sets was the forehand followed by the approach to the net.

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It was effective as he went into the backhand corner of Stan with pace forcing him to play that sliced backhand where as if you go into the backhand of Stan with little power then be careful because he can unleash one up the line or cross court and make you look a little silly.

Return of serve

Going back to Stan’s serve, Kei never really got a feel of it after the first 10 games. The intensity dropped from the former US Open finalist and it became too easy for Stan on serve.

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Already spoken about Stan’s serve out-wide on the ad side but on the deuce court it became too easy as well. Kei has his right foot planted to the ground when this serve comes in looking ready to swing but got it all wrong and missed it completely with Stan hitting an ace through at 90mph on a kick/slice isn’t good defending.

Prediction

I can’t see Stan losing this. His form has been a bit off recently with some surprises but he turns up at these big events and I think the court and speed suits him. I do think Kei could cause problems and I’d be surprised if he didn’t take a set but I’m not sure the consistent variety and level of performance is there to unsettle Stan.

Screenshots via British Eurosport 1

Final Showdown Preview, who will rise above the rest at the O2?

The race is over. A season which began down under but the world number one once again rose to the challenge in Melbourne, before you know it players had landed at Indian Wells and Miami before dusting off the clay in Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome and of course Paris where for the first time Novak Djokovic lifted the title. The green green grass of home welcomed Andy Murray with open arms as he picked up a record 5th Queens Club title and followed it up with another Wimbledon crown as he became king on centre court once again. There was no time for a summer break as the Rio Olympics were on the horizon. Juan Martin Del Potro produced the story of the games but could only clinch silver medal and once again Gold belonged to Murray. New York was the final Grand Slam destination where Stan Wawrinka picked up his first title in the city that never sleeps. The tour then arrived in Asia where Murray reigned in Beijing and Shanghai closing the gap on the world number one and then Paris where the spot of world number one could change hands and it did as Marin Cilic took out Djokovic in the quarter finals.

Now we are in London, the top 8 in men’s tennis will battle once again this season but who will end the season as World Tour Finals champion in this final sprint on the ATP tour?

So, who will taking to court in London?

Andy Murray
Novak Djokovic
Stan Wawrinka
Marin Cilic
Kei Nishikori
Gael Monfils
Dominic Thiem
Milos Raonic

Is Novak still the favourite?

When was the last time I saw Novak at his very best for a consistent amount of time? I’d say Roland Garros. Form has been patchy ever since and since finally getting his hands on the title he’s wanting to win his whole career his season has slowed down and since winning that final has lost to Sam Querrey, Del Potro, Agut, Cilic and Wawrinka all players you’d expect him to do well against. He will be a threat in London but it will be a challenge to win that title once again having not being at his best for quite some time. Is he favourite? I don’t think so but he is definitely a contender!

Monfils to make London debut!

Gael Monfils turned 30 earlier this year and some have said he may have underachieved in his career but now the Frenchman is set to play on the biggest stage in his career as he makes his debut in London. Monfils is the great entertainer in tennis, the variety and his personality make him such a great watch in big matches but you could also say he is frustrating to watch at times as there are a lot of matches he loses that you think he should be winning. London will be an intense week of tennis and I think he has the character to live up to it and I can see him getting to the semi-finals if he turns up at 100%.

World number one!

The title of world number one could change but right now it does belong to Andy Murray. The Brit has had his best season on the tour and to go into the final showdown as the world number one is a great achievement. You don’t get any easy matches in London and he will be itching to set the record straight having not made it out of the round robin for a couple of years now. The fight begins on Sunday but who will reign above the rest?

Will Thiem be too tired?

Dominic Thiem has been one of the stories of the season. The Austrian broke the top 10 and thoroughly deserves his place in London however recently he has looked tired and has had a few injury problems and it isn’t a surprise having played over 100 singles/doubles matches this year and despite London being his last tournament of the season it is also his 28th tournament of the year which is quite remarkable! I do think that Thiem will be a great addition but this could be a learning curve for the Austrian who may have to revisit his scheduling for next season.

Could Stan be the man?

Well once Stan Wawrinka get’s to a final there is literally no stopping him. The Swiss number one has won 11 or his last 12 finals on the tour and also has never lost a final against a world number one. Stan is in a tricky group and has had some surprise losses recently but don’t write him out of this one just yet…

The Groups..

This year the groups are named after one of the best rivals in tennis history, Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe, but who makes up which group?

Group McEnroe

Stan Wawrinka

Kei Nishikori

Andy Murray

Marin Cilic

Group Lendl

Novak Djokovic

Dominic Thiem

Milos Raonic

Gael Monfils

Success is an experience but how difficult is it to sustain it in tennis?

Everyone who plays a professional sport wants to be successful and win titles. Reacting to great success early on in players careers has proved to be a difficult thing in tennis but why is that?

Whether it’s winning a title or just being there or thereabouts around the winner’s circle we have seen a lot of it over the years.

Earlier this year we saw Garbine Muguruza win Roland Garros. Since then the Spaniard’s year has slipped away slightly with a win/loss record of 8/7 since winning the second major of the year back in early June.

Likewise you have Monica Puig who hasn’t really found momentum since winning the Olympic Gold and admitted herself it’s a new experience for her.

We have seen players like Dimitrov and Cilic in recent years experience success at a younger age but have failed to build on it.

As a young player before you experience great success there is little pressure on you. At this point you are the new kid on the block, you will claim a few big scalps and people will compare your game to a legends game then the pressure hits once you achieve success, suddenly people take more notice and it quickly turns in expectations on yourself and from fans/media.

On the other hand you have players like Wawrinka, Kerber and Murray who have experienced great success later on in the careers and blossomed from it, they have match experience some could only dream of and if I had to describe all three players using one phrase and that’s all have kept their feet on the ground despite media and fan attention.

Success is an experience and it’s about what you do next. You may struggle like players have at the same time you are only human. You’ve just won one of tennis’ biggest tournaments it’s mad to deal with.

Players like Puig and Muguruza have taken that big step this year and there is always that period of finding your feet again. Before you know it all eyes are on you going into tournaments. Expectations and pressure go to new level and it’s part of the experience.