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Discussion Starter #1
I thought I would start a thread to discuss the chances of the top contenders. To discuss just who those contenders are and what chances they have against each other etc...

To start the thread I will paste my dissection of players games from another thread for reference. The strongest contenders for the AO come from the top 10. I have also added 11 and 12. Murray is obviously one of the contenders and Haas also has big game and has always done well at the AO.

ROGER FEDERER (SUI) #1

Forehand - A different shot than it was in '04 and '05. The Federer forehand is now more reliable, touches of genius still come fairl often but there is more topspin and less pace on this shot now although it is still a devastating weapon. Incredible disguise, inside out, up the line all looks the same until the last moment. Half volleys from the baseline with this shot in a way no other player has ever done regularly.

Backhand - the topspin BH is a solid shot cross court although shanks are far from rare. Down the line he is consistent although clean winners are rare the approach shot is good. He has the extra dimension of one of the best slice BH's ever seen and it can be used defensively to great effect and as an offensive weapon. Manipulates points off this wing but can be broken down.

Return of serve - Outrageous first serve return. Second serve return is nothing special and he can blast on the FH every now and then but on the whole plays it safe off both wings. It is fine now because he can then win the baseline rallies but this can cost him. Enjoys working off pace rather than being forced to attack a slow serve.

Netplay - Very good volleyer off both wings. High BH volleys are the best in the mens singles game by a stretch and he deals with low balls effectively as well. Great at put aways. His FH volleys are usually good but he makes more UE's off that side than the BH especially when there is little pace on the ball. Another positive are his excellent overheads, he always seems ready and very rarely mistimes the ball.

Defense - Extremely quick around the court and very clever with his defence. Off clay almost certainly the best in the game here when you consider that flick BH plus his passing shots on both wings. Struggles more against consistent depth than against consistent power. Good anticipation.

Serve - His most improved shot of 2007 was his first serve and the ace counts have grown higher. Becoming more and more reliable at pulling out aces on big points and this is important. His second serve is good and he has all the options but I also believe it to be overrated, while it is a good shot he wins so many points off the second delivery because of the rest of his game more than because of the serve itself.

Mental Strength - He is very strong mentally and has countless close wins over tough opposition recently. However, he is human in this department and has let leads slip before and no doubt will do again. Much like Nadal, confidence plays a big factor in his mental strength and that is evdient if you compare the FO final to the Wimbledon and USO finals.

Overall: The best player in the world and one of the best players of all time so of course he is going to look good compared to the rest of the world. He is not invulnerable and players with great left sided shots can trouble him but all in all, when on his game he is unbeatable and even when off his game he makes most of the tour look second rate. 11 out of 16 slams and 10 slam finals in a row basically tell the story of where he is at right now.

RAFAEL NADAL (ESP) #2

Forehand - Offensively his best weapon and the way he uses it to press opponents deep into the court on the left wing is exceptional. DTL is a decent shot but he hasn't enough confidence to use it much off clay. Defensively it's the weaker wing and he tends to get pushed back when rallying with right handers inside out FH's. Best passing shots in the game come from this shot.

Backhand - When given nothing balls without much pace, height or spin he can struggle to be creative. It is an explosive shot and defensively it basically never breaks down. Also posseses a mediocre slice which he is developing admirably and wouldn't be a surprise to see that shot improved in '08.

Return of serve - Stands way back and moonballs it into court 9 times out of 10. He can be aggressive to great effect but chooses not to be. When facing players adept at taking the ball on the rise this is suicide but it is a very good tactic against players who aren't so good at that. Uses his ROS to start a rally, not to win a rally.

Netplay - Better than most believe. Far from a great volleyer but when he does come in he usually gets the job done and he does usually throw in a couple of S&V points in a match. Though technically not the best his anticipation is easily as good as most S&Vers and even with very good volleyers (Federer, Haas etc...) he almost always comes out on top of cat and mouse net battles.

Defense - Phenomenal on clay where he seems to be able to chase down anything and hit with enough spin to get back into position. Refusal to use the FH DTL means that off clay he can be pushed back on the FH side. Shots on the run, with Federer, are best in the game surely. Does hit ridiculous passing shots and defensive lobs.

Serve - Biggest weakness especially off clay. Almost always serves about 70% to a right handers BH and this looks good when he plays a guy like Federer but he doesn't change the tactic according to opposition and good returners like Ferrer and Nalbandian have taken advantage. His first serves do usually give him an advantage in the point but his second serve is probably the best chance for his opponents to attack him.

Mental Strength - On clay his confidence is SO high that his mental strength is unbeliavable. I don't recall him ever missing on a REALLY important point and his unbreaking intensity is amazing. Off clay that confidence isn't there and without that he loses par tof what makes him special. Still mentally strong relative to rest of the tour but nothing special.

Overall: One of the best players clay has ever seen and his willingness to be good on other surfaces may see him get big results but apart from grass they are yet to come. Injury-prone.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC (SRB) #3


Forehand - Very good shot. Hits a counter punchers FH most of the time but when he unleashes it is an ABSOLTE MONSTER. He usues this rarely as it seems he is certainly more concerned about results than qabout pleasing the crowd with big FH's but this adds another dimension to his baseline game. Seemingly never breaks down.

Backhand - Similar to the FH in many ways with most of the shots being counter puncher style with a little topspin and a little pace. However, where on the FH he has a monster, on the BH he has accuracy. Common to see him unloading with some power but the beauty of this shot is that he can hit the lines three or four times a rally without it being surprising.

Return of serve - Good but not great. His shot production doesn't allow him to be aggressive naturally and although he has developed his game to allow him to attack to a certain extent he will never be Nalbandian, Murray or Davydenko in that department.

Netplay - For someone who spends almost all their time on the baseline he is a good volleyer. Sometimes gives you a second bite of the cherry when trying to put a ball away but seems to thrive off making dificult volleys.

Defense - Solid baseline attack which is possessed by so much of the tour these days seemingly cannot hurt him, he is just too solid. He is a good passer but coming to net is a good tactic against him because he doesn't have the spin to create angles if he isn't given any.

Serve - Very good serve and probably what sets him apart from other players with solid baseline games.

Mental Strength - Has been seen to be very strong almost all the time although it failed him at the one time he would've wanted it most. TB record shows he is excellent at this overall though.

Overall: Deserved #3. Solid in all areas of the game and incredibly determined. Likes all surfaces and is a big threat to everyone, everywhere.

NIKOLAY DAVYDENKO (RUS) #4

Forehand - When he gets rythm it is a very good baseline shot but players with good variety can force errors off this wing. He hits the ball with far more pace than it looks like. Can surprise opponents. Good inside the court but nothing special defensively.

Backhand - His better wing. Excellent as an attacking weapon and taking the ball early this shot is second to Nalbandian and to Nalbandian only. He makes amazing angles as well and it's just a really creative shot considering he can change the pace so much as well.

Return of serve - One of the best in the game at returning second serves, in a group with Ferrer, Murray and Nalbandian. Returning first serves is good as well bugives a few too many short balls.

Netplay - Big weakness. He has used it well on occasion like making a lot of tough volleys against Nadal (Rome) and Canas (RG) but on the whole this sucks and each time you see him at the net you expect either an awful UE or at best for him to give the opponent another chance at passing him.

Defense - Toward the end of '07 he was looking slower and we will have to wait and see if that is accumulative faigue that will never leave him or just a blip. He is usually VERY quick but when he reaches the ball he usually tries to be aggressive with passing shots or trying to take control which is a mixed bag, he makes amazing shots but perhaps not the percentage play.

Serve - Average is the only thing that comes to mind. It is not in a league with Volandri or anything like that but it's not a weapon. Very much a way to start a rally and not much more.

Mental Strength - Awful. Has crumbled time and time again against the top players and has been known to do so against lower ranked opposition as well.

Overall : Very talented and funnily enough most people know him as a guy who has made the most out of his talents by being mentally strong but this couldn't really be further from the truth. With mental strength he would've been the '07 RG finalist.

DAVID FERRER (ESP) #5

Forehand - When dealing with low balls it is mediocre and going cross court it doesn;t get further than pretty good. However, when you see that shot inside out it is a whole new ball game and Ferrer hits the ball EXTREMELY hard. His biggest attacking weapon and it works against most players.

Backhand - Another interesting shot. Very solid of course much like the FH and he tends to attack DTL with this shot and the cross court he makes a lot of UE's when he tries to be overly aggressive. His weaker wing for sure but still solid.

Return of serve - Best in the game. Nalbandian has a better second serve return, Federer probably better at returning the first serves. Overall though, Pics is in a league of his own and he can do both very well. Has beaten up on the Nadal second serve and the Isner and Karlovic first serves in his time and it doesn't get more diverse than that.

Netplay - Not good. He is no Davydenko here but his technique is not right and he nets a LOT of balls. When playing someone who will always give him a low volley he is done for when he comes to the net.

Defense - Ridiculously quick and despite his lax attitude to training once he is on court probably the most determined in the world right now and you consistently see him run after balls that are clearly winners in the hope of getting there. Hits with some topspin but not a great deal and his way of defending is by hitting the ball hard so that the opponent cannot time the ball that well.

Serve - Good but not great. First serve is a decent weapon but he doesn't have that much confidence in it so takes pace off a lot. Second serve is average.

Mental Strength - Very mentally strong in the last year although that hasn't always been the case. So determined and never gives up. His grunt tells the story of how hard he tries.

Overall : Amazing work ethic on the court and some good shots have bought him the #5 position. #4 for a few weeks may be possible next year but remaining top 5 for the year end '08 is probably not likely.

ANDY RODDICK (USA) #6

Forehand - Although it is no longer as potent an attacking weapon as it once was he does hit hard through the ball when he gets the chance. Most players do not give him many oppurtunities to do this and Roddick himself tends to bring a negative attitude toward return games and hits heavy topspin FH's.

Backhand - His weakness still but a much improved shot and he can hit harder off this wing than he used to be able to and it can be used for attack. A tendancy to drop balls short in BH to BH rallies though and for good movers this basically means death and we saw the true shortcomings of this stroke when he faced the Nadal FH in Miami, he got slaughtered.

Return of serve - Average. He can attack to a certain extent but it doesn't come naturally. He gets back a normal amount of first serves but as stated a tendancy toward defence sets in when it is not needed and this works against weak players but the better players eat up short balls.

Netplay - His netplay is average but is made to look bad because he has a very poor concept of when to come in and how to come in. For a masterclass in brainless net approach watch the AO SF. He is good at putaways but he lacks the touch to make really tough volleys.

Defense - He is far less determined than he used to be and pets balls that he could clearly reach fly past him at times. His shots neither stay low, nor have great depth. They allow for good players to take advantag. He struggles more against consistent depth than pace though and his BH has become a decent coutner puncher shot.

Serve - A monster server on both first and second serve. He is not the king of aces but look at his percentage, he would rather force an error with the serve 3 times out of 4 than hit an ace 2 times out of 4. Basically wins most of his serve games and gives away few cheap points.

Mental Strength - Pretty good. When he loses he usually gets outplayed and it is rare to question him mentally.

Overall : An excellent server and an average baseliner basically makes for a very solid top 10 player. expect Roddick to continue going deep in the slams but the truth is he doesn't have the extra gear you feel he would need to win another slam.

FERNANDO GONZALEZ (CHI) #7


Forehand - Doesn't have the diversity of the Federer FH but he is the only player in the world who can hit the ball that hard and keep it in anything like consistently. When he gets inside out it is a monster and when he wins a big match it is usually down to him being able to use that shot.

Backhand - His slice is his most regular option and it is an okay shot. The aim of the BH is to force the opponent to give him a FH and he does this by trying to keep the slice deep but he doesn't have the skill to make it skid through the court. His flat/topspin BH is extremely erratic and has a very low margin for error.

Return of serve - Another average returner in all but one area. Second serve inside out FH, whilst a very specific shot, is extremely good and if he can pick your serve and get round to hit that shot there is NOTHING a server can do. Can be caught cheating over to that side though.

Netplay - He goes to net when the oppurtunity is cear and he is a solid volleyer. When given a high ball Gonzalez is more likely to wait for it to drop and hit a monster FH than to volley it though.

Defense - He is quick and determined and has a tendancy to pull off some spectacular winners. He has a squash FH that he can use and his slice BH is tough to break down. The way through his defence is appraoching to the BH.

Serve - Simple, strong and effective. He uses the slice often and to good effect to move opponents out of court esoecially on the deuce side.

Mental Strength - I don't think he is good or bad here. When you go for your shots like Gonzalez does you are going to miss at times and when he goes through a bad patch near the close of a match he is called a choker but I am not sure this is the case. Tha fact that he shows up one day and sucks the next is more down to his high risk style than mental weakness.

Overall : A very erratic player but when he is on he can beat a fully functioning Federer or a fully functioning Nadal and can challenge the best on all surfaces. Early losses will always prevent him consistently reaching higher than 10-7.

RICHARD GASQUET (FRA) #8


Forehand - Not many on the ATP tour can call the FH a weakness but Gasquet is one of them. He hits the ball with a lot of junk spin and often this shot seems quite aimless. Wehn he attacks with it inside out it is a decent shot and he does occasionally hit winerful running forehands but other than that all he can hope for is depth because the shot rarely has pace.

Backhand - Fantastic. He can defend with it, he can attack with it, he can hit passing shots, he can hit clean winners from 6 feet behind his own baseline. Technically perfect and a beautiful shot he shares the role of best BH on tour with David Nalbandian.

Return of serve - Nadal style return and it's a way of starting the point. He stands far back and aims for depth and not a lot else. When he does step in he can be aggressive especially off the BH but he tends not to do that.

Netplay - Of the new blood in the game today Gasquet is certainly on the better side as far as netplay goes. He makes some silly errors but he is technically very solid and makes most volleys that you'd expect an adept volleyer to make.

Defense - He is good at keeping a good length from deep and he is quick enough for sure. He is fantastic at hitting passing shots from deep but much like Roddick he is too quick to assume the position of defender in rallies that seem neutral.

Serve - A reasonable serve. He doesn't hit the ball particularly hard and tends to try and take control with the serve rather than to hit aces or service winners. His second serve is fairly strong and he tends to keep the ball deep but players who take the ball early can attack it as it does often end up in his opponents strike zone.

Mental Strength - A big weakness for Gasquet is his seeming refusal to fight for matches. During the end of the season this was not evident but whether this was a temprary thing or a change is unknown. He also plays extremely passively on big points.

Overall : A player with one glaring weakness and one huge strength. He will need to improve his FH if he wants to improve his ranking and his chances of a major title.

DAVID NALBANDIAN (ARG) #9


Forehand - A very smooth and technically sound stroke that he hits well with disguise and a surprising amount of pace. He can make great angles with it and change direction easily. The only weakness I can see in this shot is that he cannot seem to drastically change the pace which can be a problem when defending in certain situations.

Backhand - Along with Gasquet the best BH on tour right now. He makes obscene angles with it regularly. He can control cross court rallies against anyone with this stroke and his shot production is stunning.

Return of serve - First serve return is above average but not phenomenal. His second serve return is very possibly the best the game of tennis has seen since Andre Agassi. It can be inconsistent at times and when he is missing he gifts opponents easy points ons econd serve but when he is firing he can win points on return extremely quickly.

Netplay - Good. Nalbandian can use all the court although he is primarily a baseliner. His volleys are solid and he rarely makes silly errors. When making tough drop volleys and other such shots it does show that he is nothing special at the net though.

Defense - He uses the slice BH well as a defensive shot. The FH is flawed defensively but when he is timing the ball well he almost never has to defend anyway and when he does he tends to use attack as his form of defence, trying to shift control of the rally. Good passing shots and lob inparticular.

Serve - A weakness of his but it appears he has worked on this drastically and he has had great results with it recently. Whether this holds up is to be seen.

Mental Strength - His mind can be elsewhere at times and as a player with a great return game and a weaker serve game his matches are often streaky (both players dominatig at different times) but he fights hard when he really wants it and certainly has the belief to beat top players.

Overall : The most talented baseliner in the game and clearly a top 5 level player. His fanbase are overexcited thinking that his purple patch is how he will play forever more but if he can even continue to reach a somewhat similar standard he will be top 5 and being a good slam performer he may challenge for slams.

TOMMY ROBREDO (ESP) #10

Forehand - His better attacking wing but can be broken down defensively. Hits with a large amount of spin and has a very good inside out FH which is his main attacking weapon.

Backhand - An interesting shot. He has a good net clearance, rarely makes errors and has good technique. Despite this, it seems he has little confidence in the shot and routinely drops it short which the best player capitalise on. He has a just about working slice to add to the reportoire.

Return of serve - Focuses on getting the ball into play on the BH but often hits hard and takes control of points when returning second serves with his forehand.

Netplay - Goes largely unused due to the baseline nature of his game but whe he does come in he has perfectly reasonable volleys. A part of his game which most people assume will be weak and he is far from Stefan Edberg but he can function in the forecourt.

Defense - The main focus of his tennis is on defence and with his FH he keeps a good length but can make errors. His BH is more solid and he possesses a slice but he does tend to drop the ball short and when players get to the net his mediocre passing shots don't help him that much.

Serve - A high percentage but a weak first serve. His second serve isn't much weaker than his first and is a perfeclty decent shot which he spins deep into court.

Mental Strength - A mentally sound player and does perform fairly well on the big stage despite his limited game. Although he is probably a better player than people give him credit for if he wasn't strong mentally he would probably be outside the top 10.

Overall : A solid player who is at home on clay but has adapted very well on hardcourt. Very unlikely to ever challenge the very best but deserves his top 10 spot. Unlikely to remin top 10 with the influx of the Nadal, Djokovic etc... generation.

ANDY MURRAY (GBR) #11

Forehand - A forehand which Murray uses depending on opposition. He can spin it with little pace but good depth when he plays a more containing game but it is also explosive and it is clear he has worked to be more consistently aggressive off the wing. Never going to be one of those shots that you marvel at but he hits it great on the run and it is very functional.

Backhand - He has greater strength off this wing and has destroyed opponents with it before. A better "kill" shot than his forehand and especially cross court he can unload well as demonstrated against Nadal at last years AO. He also has good slice and like the FH a very functional rally type shot.

Return of serve - Along with Ferrer, Davydenko, Nalbandian he has the best return of second serves around and his first serve return is also excellent. Good at reading serves and he can power into any kick serve off either wing.

Netplay - He uses it well and he tends to come off best in most net exchanges with very quick hands. He drop volleys VERY well but the problem is he relies on this shot too much and can become predictable.

Defense - One of the best in the world. He is VERY quick and hits very well on the run. His anticipation is also very good and he passes well, not really any negatives here except sometimes he is too quick to rely on his defence. Against the best in the world he needs to be more commanding. One of the best passers in the game also.

Serve - Good first serve and functional second serve but the percentage is far from what it needs to be if he is going to be grand slam material.

Mental Strength - He is reasonably strong mentally. His poor five set record is more an indication of his poor conditioning during his very early months on tour. Tends to step up in final sets against peers but against the REAL big guns on the REAL big stage he hasn't showed his capabilities yet.

Overall: Potentially a top 5 player for sure although if he remains as defensive as he has been at times he will not be able to get the HUGE wins he needs to step up a level from contender to big gun.

TOMMY HAAS (GER) #12

Forehand - He has perfect technique which is a feature of his game as a whole but hits with a little too much spin at times and allows himself to be bossed when he needn't. As a weapon it is good and he has good accuracy but he can lack strength allowing good defenders too many chances.

Backhand - Excellent shot and he can hit winners from almost anywhere and rally BH to BH with anyone. Has a slice which he uses defensively and offensivley as an approach shot. Down the line backhand is probably his biggest weapon.

Return of serve - A good returner of first serves with containing shots ala Roger Federer. His second serve return is good but not great, he sometimes tries to force too much and doesn't get enough balls in play.

Netplay - Very good here, amongst the current crop of top 20 players he is bettered by very few and especially BH volleys he can put away very well. Good at low angled volleys as well.

Defense - He is good at retreiving but he isn't awesome at turning defence into attack. His slice backhand is always useful here and off the FH he can use a more heavily spun ball and go for depth. Passing shots are fairly good but nothing special.

Serve - A good serve but nothing special. He can use slice and the sliders out wide work very well when he is playing well. He tends to use the serve as a shot to set up for a forehand approach or winner. Second serve is tough to attack.

Mental Strength - Poor here. It has cost him in the past and can cost him again. He is a perfectionist which means he can get very down on himself at times and this doesn't do him any favours.

Overall: A very talented player who has the skills to beat most of the other contenders on a good day but you don't feel he will ever REALLY challenge for a slam. His best days were hounded by injuries and maybe he has been unfortunate to miss his chance.
 

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I want Nadal to win it. I think he can, but he probably won't.

My top 5:
1. Federer
2. Djokovic/Nalbandian/Nadal (I don't know what form Djokovic is in, I don't think that Nalbandian has the consistency, I don't know if Nadal has the confidence)
5. Murray
 

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This is probably the most open tournament but even at that Federer seem like the obvious favourite to win!..If he isn't going to win he is going to get halted at the SF stage if he gets to the final it is his!...Murray has looked very good on the surface! but Federer Djokovic Nalbandian and Nadal could best him on water so...
 

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JAMES BLAKE (USA) #13

Forehand - good US fast hardcourt forehand. Can hit it with a good pace, can find lines with both crosscourt and dtl version. Takes the ball early on the rise so he can generate much power, but in a worse day he's spraying error after error. Wins him most matches

Backhand - A strange one, because JB started playing tennis using 2-hander, but due to an ilness he's forced to convert to one-handed backhand and that's visible on the court. Good at throwing the ball away from you when an opponent tries to nail you with a big shot, although could be deeper. Good for return, but that's another subject. Quite a decent slice

Return - Can be outstanding, especially on the backhand side. As it's been said before, James takes the ball early - this combined with great look at opponent's serves often gives him many points won directly by return (ex. match against Nalbandian, YEC 06 and against Hewitt in AO 05 when he showed him the famous vicht)

Netplay - lack of stability here. His net winners often look like lucky and it's difficult for him to avoid errors, even the simple ones. In few words - not a natural volleyer

Defense - not bad, because of his fast legs and flat strokes, but he should work on being outhitted by opponents that can deploy a variety of in-out strokes with changing of pace. The problem is finding a tactical way during a rally when he's on defence - sometimes he just counts on a big shot that may, and turning defens into attack is simply not in his dictionary

Serve - strong 1st serve (mostly flat) although its percentage can be low at times and lack of variety is also something that could be upgraded

Mental Strength - "mental midget" - that's what he's been called and not for no reason. It's difficult for him to defeat players with whose he's got bad H2H, but often comes back in style to defeat those who produce good matchup for him (Nadal, Davydenko). He's also familiar with choking, and that includes choking in TBs. Ex. in Indian Wells final against Federer he f***ed a simple forehand when he had a SP and Federer was dead on the court. His friends on tour underline the fact, that he's definitely not a type of agressive fighter and - let's be honest - you need to have a it of that one when you compete

Overall : an intelligent hardcourter who's not playing as a Top 10 guy on other courts and didn't gain any serious success outside artificial surface. He's either on a killing spree or in a deep hole when he's losing to some journeymen outside Top 100. Doing well in MM tournaments, but quite a midget in slams (plus a veeery bad 5-set matches record)
 

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Interesting analysis, thanks for posting Stebs!

It's too early to tell I think, as a lot of the players haven't been playing since Shanghai, have been playing only exho's and/or Mickey Mouse tournaments and the like... we have no idea about Nalby's, Ferrer's, Djoko's, etc. current form.

And while a lot of people seem to think Fed is invincible at the AO, he might well be a bit rusty like he so often is after a long break - if the Above Mentioned have a good day and the Fed Express isn't on yet, he might well get beaten.

As for Raf - he still hasn't really convinced me on (fast) HC. But I wouldn't mind him giving me a nice surprise at the AO, of course. ;)

The only one who I now - based on what I've seen the past week - expect to do really well is Murray.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
A very interesting round will be the last 16. Seeds 9-12 will play 5-8. As for now that could provide us with the following matchups.

Ferrer vs.

Nalbandian - The matchup favours Ferrer but Nalbandian is certainly the better player on hardcourts if both are playing as they can. Nalbandian was victorious in a long tight match in Paris at the end of last year and that was with Ferrer really hitting his limit. For me Nalbandian would be favourite but it could become a long match and I would take Ferrer to get a victory in a fifth set if it had been 3 and a half + hours.

Robredo - He's a very good player but Ferrer is simply better on hardcourts and he can use his weapons to good effect against Robredo's solid defensive play. Robredo isn't really going to outlast Ferrer either so for me his avenues of victory are slim, he would have to rely on his opponent having a really bad day.

Murray - Ferrer cannot really break down the Murray defences with his hard hitting and Murray has the right type of point construction that hurts Ferrer. I think Murray would run Ferrer ragged and also the Spainard would expound his energy on big hitting which wouldn't pay dividends. I would see Murray as favourite here.

Haas - He has a decent shot against Ferrer if he plays right but he has a tendancy to approach the net off mediocre approach shots at times and this wouldn't pay against Ferrer. Haas would have to show patience that he only sometimes shows. Ferrer cannot hurt Haas with his attacking game but his defence is enough that he would be favourite here I believe but this match could go either way.

Roddick vs.

Nalbandian - If Nalbandian is in great form I think Roddick is one of the few who have a reasonable chance. He can hold his own serve against the brilliant return just due to the sheer hugeness of his delivery and I can imagine him grinding out return points every now and then. I think this could go either way and realistically it would depend a reasonable amount on the form of Nalbandian and also on Roddicks serve consistency.

Robredo - I think the H-2-H says it all and although they haven't met for three years or more the matchup has only changed in that Roddick has become a little more defensive at times. However, the American is not stupid and he would attack enough to get the job done here I think. Robredo has never been good against big servers and Roddick is one of the biggest in the game.

Murray - Roddick will always have matchup issues with the Scot and he has been beaten by him 4 times (one ret.) in the past. The new courts at the AO are probably slower than anywhere other than Miami that the pair have met and that will only be good for Murray. It would not be impossible to see Roddick winning this but personally I think he would be secondr favourite.

Haas - On a good day Haas can do to Roddick what Federer does to Roddick and we all know that leads to only one result (Memphis '07). However, Roddick is a more consistent performer, particularly in the slams, he can also frustrate Haas with a grinding type game which he often employs these days. I think this is an intruiging matchup and it would be a 50-50 type of thing but for Roddick's mental strength which is superior to Haas'.

Gonzalez vs.

Nalbandian - Gonzalez is one player who can really trouble Nalbandian due to his sheer explosive power off the forehand. However, the matchup is far from that simple as Nalbandian also has the consistency to trouble the Gonzalez backhand more than most. Both players have good days and bad days and with the pairs form unknown a prediction is very tough. Nalbandian is probably the better hardcourt player despite Gonzalez' final here last year.

Robredo - To beat the hardworking Spainard what you need is a lot of patience and some weapons. Gonzalez makes up for his lack of one with an abundance of the other. His huge FH can hit straioght through Robredo to great effect but as seen in Beijing last year he is streaky to an unbeliavable extent. This match would really be a test for Gonzalez but there is little doubt that the final result would depend on his playing level almost solely.

Murray - Murray has a good tactical game and the ability to change things up in ways Gonzalez doesn't like. However, his looping forehand can be spanked relentlessly by the fiery Chilean and a lack of aggression woul be punished. I think Murray has the neccesary skills and brain to defeat Gonzalez and he would only be really in trouble if Fena came in and played the way he did last year, possible though that is, it is not something we can expect.

Haas - The lack of weight Haas has behind his shots means that Gonzalez can control rallies in this match but he struggles with Haas ability to stifle sheer power. A close matchup which, like so many with the Chilean, depend foremost on how the world #7 plays. I would give Haas the edge to be honest despite the result of their match at the AO last year. Gonzalez cannot play the match of his life every day.

Gasquet vs.

Nalbandian - The matchup is awful for Richard and Nalbandian is never going to be troubled by the cross court BH of Gasquet which is something the Argie can eat for breakfast. Gasquets only hopes of winning this would be Nalbandian missing everything in sight or the Frenchman stepping up and playing aggressively with brilliance. Assuming neither happen, watch the H-2-H become 6-0.

Robredo - The Spainard frustrated Gasquet into submission last year at the AO but the surface supposedly bounces lower. This would favour Gasquet assuming he would step up and be more aggressive. Also, the Frenchman had a strong close to '07 and looks to have matured a fair bit. I see this match being in the balance though because matchup wise Gasquet probably comes off second best.

Murray - Gasquet had a winning record agaisnt Murray including the important match in Paris last year. I think despite Gasquets higher ranking he is a poorer player on hardcourts and Murray has more options. I think this match would certainly not be a straight setter for either player and both have the ability to play brilliantly one moment and awfully the next. I think this match would really be a case of whichever player really turns up on the day would take it, if both turn up, the crowd are the real winners.

Haas - These two played in incredible match in the Davis Cup in 2006. If that was anything to go by we would be in for a treat with this but matchup wise I don't really think either have an edge. Gasquet has come forwards more than Haas since that '06 match and would be favourite to take this one for me although Haas is proven down under and enjoys the surroundings even if the surface has changed. I would go for the Frenchman.
 
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Not quite that misleading, as the matchup issues has been added
 

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RICHARD GASQUET (FRA) #8

Forehand - Not many on the ATP tour can call the FH a weakness but Gasquet is one of them. He hits the ball with a lot of junk spin and often this shot seems quite aimless. Wehn he attackswith it inside out it is a decent shot and he does occasionally hit winerful running forehands but other than that all he can hope for is depth because the shot rarely has pace.
Great description of his forehand.
The thing is that his forehand is actually very good if not great in some positions,especially on the run......but in most positions(especially in transition play),his forehand really sucks and i mean it.


RICHARD GASQUET (FRA) #8

Serve - A reasonable serve. He doesn't hit the ball particularly hard and tends to try and take control with the serve rather than to hit aces or service winners. His second serve is fairly strong and he tends to keep the ball deep but players who take the ball early can attack it as it does often end up in his opponents strike zone.
That was true one or two years ago but i think it has changed a little bit in the last few months.
At the end of last season, he has regularly hitted his first serves over 130-133 mph and in consequence ,he has been hitting more aces than before (see for example how many aces he hitted against Roddick at Wimbledon or against Berdych at Tokyo)

Anyway,great work Stebs ;)
 
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