Google Down the Line!: VANtage Point: Miami flashback, honing in on Houston

Monday, April 6, 2009

VANtage Point: Miami flashback, honing in on Houston

Now that the hard part’s over … it’s on to the clay-court season!

Yes, VANtage Point is back and ready for some slip-sliding action on the dirt as both tours start one of the most difficult and physically draining stretches of the year. I figure it won’t be so hard for me, though: Whenever Rafael Nadal’s playing in a tournament, I should pick him for the title. That way, I can get my numbers up! Pretty easy, right?

Anyway, after a week off, let’s knock the dust off VP and get to it.

A Look Back: That was some Sony Ericsson Open, wasn’t it? I think the most impressive feat had to be Victoria Azarenka taking the title over my pick, Serena Williams. Over at my blog, Tennis Talk, Anyone?, my Slam predictions are riddled with Azarenka picks, but she has never come through for me. I guess I should stick with her now!

For the men, I think one word best sums it up: WOW. What can you say about Andy Murray? Is there any doubt he’s the best fast-court player on tour right now? I think he’ll get tripped up a little on the clay, but that’s a discussion for another day. He took out Novak Djokovic in the finals, who made some of the biggest noise in the tournament by beating Roger Federer. Or was that big noise Roger’s racquet being shattered? I can’t believe Fed is saying he’s happy to get off the hard courts: That’s a very bad sign. It wasn’t that bad an event for VANtage Point, either, with six of the eight total semifinalists between both draws picked. But I gotta start getting it right on some champs!

This Week’s Spotlight: Hmmm, where to start? Well, there’s a WTA event in Spain that has Serena Williams as the top seed, but I’m expecting her to drop out any second now and the rest of the draw doesn’t intrigue me. So I’m going with my traditionalist’s side and taking a look at the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, one of the oldest stops on the tour. The top seeds are James Blake and Mardy Fish, who won the title in 2006.

Players to Watch: Catch him while you can because I think last-year’s runner-up Blake is going out in the first round to Guillermo “Slick Willy” Canas. There’s three wild cards in the draw whose prospects I’m intrigued by: comeback kid Taylor Dent, John Isner and Tommy Haas. I like Haas to make a good run here. As for the defending champ, Marcel Granollers, I can see him going out early, too. A player I think you should really watch out for, here and during the dirt season, is Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.

The Final Fours: Since I just mentioned him, I’m going with Chardy over Evgeny Korolev and Jurgen Melzer over Tommy Haas.

And the Winner Is: Chardy takes out Haas in a shotmaking fan’s dream. This is my week, I can feel it!

Van Sias writes the blog Tennis Talk, Anyone?

(image via getty)


  1. "For the men, I think one word best sums it up: WOW. What can you say about Andy Murray? Is there any doubt he’s the best fast-court player on tour right now?"

    If you mean "right now" as in "this week", then maybe. If you mean "this year", then no. Check out the ATP Race (points from hardcourt tourneys so far this year):

    Nadal is the best hardcourt player of the year right now, Murray is the second-best. Rafa won AO (major) and IW (Masters); Murray won Miami (Masters) and 2 other small tourneys.

  2. i'm also waiting for serena to drop out any second. the commentators on CBS over the weekend were talking about how she's managed to stay healthy throughout her career. i was like, what?! she's injured every year and pulling out of non-slam tourneys all the time like it's her job! lol, whatever.

    oh and this is not necessarily directed at just you van, but felt i needed to say something given you kinda mentioned it. so....everyone's freaking out over andy murray and saying he's the best right now! honestly, not that impressed with the caliber of players he beat in miami - most of them had some sort of problem on court. and IW was relatively lametown as well. anyways, i think it's crap to say he's the best when it's very apparent that rafa's had the best start to the year (point wise, trophy wise) and he's the clearly the best player, IMO. the british media is trippin' balls over this, which also makes me laugh bc i would die laughing if he just yelled out, even just once, "shut up i'm scottish!!!" HAHAHA

  3. same mind, anon 1:06!!!

    -anon 1:08

  4. I think you have to look at Murray's results from the last six or seven months. In the last few months he beat Rafa twice, Nole three times in a row, and had Fed's number. We are talking about multiple wins against top three players. I think he had displayed the skill and form and proved that he is right up there with Rafa.

  5. Even on Serena's web site she did not have this week tournament as one of the scheduled tournaments that she planned to plan. Can you believe she would fly to Spain, play this week, then fly back to the US and play in Charleston, where she is the defending championa, and a bigger tournament. I don't think so. The organizer might pay her a lot of appearance fee, but with that injury, she probably would just call off the whole thing the last minute.

    Anybody knows if she had flown to Spain after Saturday's whipping?

  6. Serena and Kournikova stories. I'd email them but I can't open my account.

  7. You have to look at the hard court season as a whole, not just this year. Murray has been hot all season pretty much since it started following Wimbledon. Rafa may have become number one during this period, but I feel Andy has been more consistent than Rafa (even tho Rafa has been remarkable). Also, like was mentioned, Andy has a great record against the three guys ahead of him (remember he gave Rafa his first loss since being no.1 at the US Open).

    Re: the Fed comment, he said he is glad the hard court season is over because it is tough on his back, not because he isn't liking the court. I think it's a good sign because it means his back can get rested properly and he can come back to form.

  8. Let's look at the hardcourt season as a whole (from Wimbledon 2008 until Miami 2009).

    Rafa won 1 major (AO), plus Olympic Gold, plus 2 Masters (Canada, IW), while Murray won 3 Masters (Cinci, Madrid, Miami), plus 2 small hardcourt turneys.

    Their h2h in this period on hardcourt is 2-2 (Canada & IW for Rafa, USO & Rotterdam for Murray). Last time they played on hardcourt (at IW), Rafa won.

    So, no, Andy was not more consistent than Rafa on hardcourt this season. Nadal still won more points and more important tournaments (on his worst surface, as opposed to Andy's best).

  9. Nobody said Murray is better than Rafa, or he is the best. We are talking about the players' forms, and we have to agree that Murray is right up there with Rafa.

    By the way, UOE tournament is not a small tournament - it has all the top ten players except Davydenko. It is as competitive as any top tournaments. The Arabs were throwing gazzilion $$ to the players to have them show up. That field is tough.

  10. according to the marbella site and via, serena has landed in spain today. perhaps she's play her first match, retire in it, then take a nice vaca in spain. she's def getting paid well to fly out there, that's for sure.

  11. What do you mean "nobody said Murray is better than Rafa, or he is the best"?!

    That is precisely what the original post claimed: "Is there any doubt he’s the best fast-court player on tour right now?"

    As for the "small" tournaments - they ARE small because they yield less points and have less number of players in the draw than the Masters & majors.

    As shown by the ATP Race 2009, Nadal has more points than Murray so far this year (and all the point are from hardcourts). It's the same if you look at the whole hardcourt season (check the ranking points breakdown for both players at the ATP site): Nadal has 7.330 and Murray has 7.220 hardcourt points.

    BTW, Murray is a hardcourt specialist, 82% of his total points come from hardcourts (Nadal's only 51%).

  12. Guys, you guys are cracking me up. I am not sure how you get the stats. Can't compare apples and oranges.

    Let's focus on hard courts. If we only take those tournaments that they both have to play (since Rafa did not play some of the hard courts that Murray did), then we are only taking the slams and the master series events.

    these tournaments are US and Aussie Open, Indian Wells, Miami, Canada, Madrid, Cincinatti, and Master Cup. Murray has 6230 and Rafa has 5980.

    If we take away the Master Cup (even a must play) then Murray has 5630.

    However, Van said "fast court"... then a fast court should include Grass. So if we add Wimbledon, then the clear winner is Rafa.

    However, I conclude that they are at the top of the game when it comes to hard court.

    Didn't bother to look up Fed's records even though he won the US Open. He currently does not hold any master series title....

  13. He wins Miami by beating Del Potro and a “not in form” Djokovic. He didn’t have to play Nadal or Federer.

  14. Not comparing apples and oranges, those 7.330 vs. 7.220 points are from all hardcourt tournaments that Nadal and Murray did play during the season.

  15. Fed's hardcourt records are FOURTH for the season (after Djokovic).

    Countable hardcourt ranking points for Federer are 5.770 or 52% of his total points for the season.

    For Djokovic it is 5.830 or 65%.

  16. Wow. Those stats are waaay too much for my brain to handle. Especially on a Monday...

  17. well clearly rafa & andy have had the best start to the year so we'll see where it goes from here. but vamos rafa! (obvs) :) sorry but that final sucked major a-hole. the level of play was just blah, i don't know maybe it's just me. nole was having his heat issues, as per usual, which is frustrating when you know how well he can play. and then andy just bores me to tears. plus when he yelled at a ball kid "i want an ice towel and the umbrella right NOW!!" i was like, ok you're an ass. boo. but congrats nonetheless (honestly not being sarcastic here, sometimes that's hard to convey!) i guess i just wish nole had his A-game with him and that andy didn't put me to sleep and yell at people. but you can't always get what you want :(

  18. Hey everyone, I didn't want you all to think I posted and ran! I hate to throw out another wrinkle, but check this out: If Nadal and Murray play 10 times at regular hard-court or indoor or grass events—Dubai, Rotterdam, Queens, etc., you know events at that level—how many times do you think Murray would win? I'm going to say at LEAST eight.

    Now when you get to the Masters events on the faster stuff, I think it gets more even between them and it's a toss-up. Come Slam time, the scales tip toward Nadal, just because he knows how to get it done.

    So, I think technically Murray's better on fast courts, but Nadal's stronger mentally. If that makes any sense!

  19. Agree completely, that Jeremy Chardy is one to watch. Smooth, effortless game with lots of serve and volley.

    Things are working out well for Rafa. I think he had mentioned he had hoped that while winning a few more hardcourt tournaments, that the others in the top 3 would split them up, taking the pressure off of him. This was before the A.O., so good on him for getting a couple as well.

  20. who cares, none of them will be the Mighty Fed in their carrer


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