US Open Day 7: Djokovic Fights Off Strong Challenge from Bautista Agut

So Bautista-Agut turned out to be a much tougher test for the #1 seed than expected. I thought Djokovic did very well to win the opening set 6-3 after RBA came out hitting big from the baseline. I was surprised that he could actually hit the ball that big, especially on the forehand side. But when Djokovic got the break in the second set and had a point(s) for a double break I thought the match was pretty much done and dusted.

But Djokovic failed to break and RBA reeled off five straight games to win the second set 6-4 and take a 1-0 lead in the third set. Djokovic also went down 0-30 in his next service game but crucially held serve to stop the rot. He then broke at 2-2 and that proved to be enough to win the all-important third set 6-4. In the fourth set, Djokovic broke in the opening game and that seemed to be the final straw.

But Bautista Agut was still hitting the ball huge and broke back to level at 2-2. Djokovic was having none of it though as he broke straight away again after a terrific exchange which ended in Djokovic hitting a drop volley winner and pointing to his ear to rile the crowd up. As in the second set, Djokovic had break points at 4-2 and 40-0 and this time he wouldn’t make any mistake as he hit a blistering backhand return winner to break to love.

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But RBA was not done yet as he blasted some more big forehands and broke serve to stay in the match. The writing was on the wall though as Djokovic broke in the next game for a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory. Big credit to RBA for playing a very good match and taking the match to Djokovic. He appeared to be in the zone, but Djokovic slowly but surely tightened his grip around his victim like an anaconda until he let out his last breath.

Djokovic was not on his game same as the Seppi match. He should have gotten the double break in the second set and finished RBA off earlier. But all credit to RBA for hitting himself out of that situation with power and consistency. And credit to the world #1 for how he absorbed all that pressure and won despite not being at his best. That is the difference between him and the rest. He has bad days like everyone, but he still wins.

He asks an awful amount of questions to the opponent until they simply don’t have the answers anymore. Not that he is anything like Nadal. Djokovic has the perfect balance of offense and defense in his game. He has a very effective serve, he hits winners from the ground, attacks the net, and varies his game. He also has the best returns and backhand in the business. It is just extraordinarily difficult to beat him.

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That doesn’t mean it can’t be done, but there is zero room for error. You have to play nothing short of perfect tennis. It was nice to see Djokovic winning many free points off his serve and frequently approaching the net. I think he is trying to be aggressive which is key for him. When he is aggressive it is very difficult to see anyone beat him. This match kind of reminded me of the Anderson fourth round at Wimbledon.

Djokovic was off his game but found a way. He is not like Federer or Sampras who can just serve guys off the court. He has to work hard for his wins and he will drop sets along the way. The important thing is to keep winning and when it is time to peak to play his best tennis. He now plays Lopez who defeated Fognini in straight sets in one of our prediction matches. Djokovic leads the head-to-head 5-0.

  • Elsewhere in the Draw

So like I said the Nadal curse struck again because Fognini lost 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-1 to Lopez. Djokovic is still the only player in 2015 who has been able to back up a win over Nadal with a win, mainly because he is the anti-Nadal who has owned him 14-7 since 2011. It was a nice run from Fognini anyway and there can be no doubt now that he is a massive talent. And I hope Djokovic schools Lopez because he played a flat Fognini.

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Then Cilic continued his title defense with a four-set win over Chardy. I think his defense ends in the next round against Tsonga though, who straight-setted Paire. Tsonga has looked impressive so far with no sets dropped. I’m sure he will probably drop a set or two against Cilic, but he is my favorite. So I think we are looking at a possible Djokovic vs Tsonga semi-final. But in tennis not even Djokovic winning is certain and anything can happen.

  • The Prediction Game

It looks like Amir and Krish are the joint winners of our prediction game who both got the winners right and the number of sets for one of the matches, so 9 points for both. Well done! I will calculate the rankings after my post, but it looks like Amir is into the lead after doing well in our previous prediction game as well if I remember correctly. Of course, the tennis has already started today but the match I am going for starts much later anyway.

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I am gonna go for Federer vs Isner which will be the second match in the night session. For me that is at the worst possible time so I’m gonna have to take a pass on that but Federer will probably win in three or four sets and it will just be a serving contest so I’m not too sad about that. For the top half which I think is played tomorrow, I will go for Tsonga vs Cilic. Happy predicting!

  • Highlights

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWzdjC9Rm9c

The is in your court.

Posted in Grand Slams, US Open.

25 Comments

  1. Thanks Ru-an, I’m happy that my predictions turned out well :-) I was considering picking Anderson in 3 but I wasn’t sure whether he would hold his nerve.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    I don’t think anyone expected Anderson to win in straights! So four sets was a good prediction ;-)

    [Reply]

  2. I thought you said Isner will deal Fed a tough one, to compound Fed’s difficulty with Kohl?
    :-)

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Did I? Quote, please.

    [Reply]

    Matt Reply:

    “Isner is mentally much better than the German and Federer could be in for a very difficult match.” You’re welcome.

    In that previous post, you’re pretty tough on Fed. Actually, this week he’s looked quite good, I think you’d agree. Hasn’t dropped a set even during that “failure” on Kohl’s part.

    My comment on that previous post from which I quoted you is: “Roger will have little trouble with Isner.” Did you watch the match? TBs and and 7-5 blow-out. He looks good. Period.

    I’m just keeping you honest, Ru-an. I enjoy your tennis insights a lot, as you know.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    There is a difference between ‘Isner will deal Fed a tough one’ and ‘Federer could be in for a very difficult match’. You’re welcome.

    I agree that Federer has looked quite good and no I did not watch the full match.

    I said Federer’s stock would go up if he defeated Isner in straights, and so it did. Just keeping you honest, Matt. I enjoy your comments a lot, as you know ;-)

    [Reply]

    Matt Reply:

    Ha.
    I know deep down you’d love to see the pink Fed soar in NYC (the pink gives him a youthful glow, no?). :-)

    Wawrinka Anderson, Cilic Tsonga. . . power tennis in the QF. I think Anderson may have trouble backing that up, no? What a great win for your countryman.

    Cheers.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Lol. I actually don’t want to see the pink Fed soar in NYC. I want him to get straight-setted by Gasquet, but that’s not happening. Look, I wouldn’t mind if he makes the final and gets spanked again by Djokovic but neither of them may make it. We will see. I want Djokovic to win the USO 100%. Anything else would be a disappointment.

    [Reply]

    Matt Reply:

    Well, there you have it! The bias is blowing-up! I hear you. We agree that this is Djokovic’s moment of opportunity.

    I also agree there are no guarantees of a Djoker/Fed final. Not at all. The Tsonga-Cilic winner could be dangerous even though Novak has owned both.

    Gasquet’s shot-making is the kind of tennis that could trouble Fed. He should be through to SF without much drama, but Gasquet is winning, no denying that (all summer).

    Stan is very interesting. If he spanks Anderson, look-out. Stan could be peaking very well. A FO rematch would not be a surprise.

    Go Fed. Lol.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Lol. Not denying my bias but I’ll try to give Fed a break. To be honest him and Djokovic always produce good matches so another Djokerer final is probably preferable. And probably the most likely too.

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  3. Well done Kevin Anderson! Takes out Murray in 4 sets, winning the final tie-break 7-0 – did very well to hold his nerve, and he goes on to play Wawrinka. I’m sure he’ll enjoy that :-)

    Federer fans can be a little happier now, he’s playing Gasquet next, and if Anderson owns Wawrinka again this could be just what he needs to enter his first US Open final since 2009.

    Other side of the draw: Djokovic should routine Lopez, Tsonga vs Cilic will be very interesting. Ru-an, I’ll be interested to know what you think of Tsonga’s chances here – he’s looked pretty good so far and is the only player who hasn’t been broken yet.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Hey, Krish. Good comment. I was very happy for Anderson after all the past chokes. He finally exorcised the demons and made his first slam QF.

    I’m sure Fedfans will be very happy that Federer is playing Gasquet and not Berdych, but I hardly think it matters. I don’t think Berdych was a real threat. And neither is Gasquet.

    Stan vs Anderson should be interesting. Maybe Stan will win because it is Anderson’s first slam SF. But who knows.

    As for Tsonga, I already said in my post I like his chances to defeat Cilic.

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  4. I saw the last half of the Anderson-Murray match. Anderson played very well apart from nearly choking the 2nd set away. But he was hitting big groundstrokes and always attacking. His legs were gone by the end but he hung on .

    With Isner-Federer I don’t think it was too straightforward. For example Isner had 0-40 on Fed’s serve I think in the 2nd set and he held up well from the backcourt. Federer was playing well too, few shanks.

    In fact as usual it came down to a few points in the 2nd set tiebreak: Federer returned with nonchalance a 141 mph serve to get a mini-break; he hit a ridiculous winner off a first serve to set up set point; then he hit another line painting down the line backhand on set point, after Isner hit a really good cross court forehand.

    Apart from that things were OK for Isner, though by the last set, Federer was holding easily and putting pressure on the Isner serve.

    Djokovic will sweep by Lopez in 3. Cilic should beat Tsonga in 4, I would guess.

    Federer-Gasquet should be really interesting. Of course Federer is the favourite (I’m not going to do an Uncle Toni here) but this is not the Gasquet of previous years.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks for some more info on the Fedner match Bharata. I only watched the first set and the 2nd set TB. The match followed the usual pattern of Federer vs a big server with Federer just coming up with something extra when things got close. Isner was up in the 2nd set TB and didn’t put away a volley which would have given him a double break but even if he won the 2nd set Federer would have won in 4.

    Small margins as you’d expect from a serving contest. No doubt it was a very efficient performance from Federer but let’s face it Isner is just a serve. I want to see how Federer does against a decent returner to see how his service games hold up. Gasquet isn’t the greatest returner though, but he is playing better recently.

    I think Federer will win, but he doesn’t want another five-set match like he did against another Frenchman in the QF last year.

    [Reply]

    Hari Reply:

    Anderson deserved the win. Mentally was very strong and closed it out well. Could have finished it in 3 sets but Murray fought back respectably well and would have been harsh on him had he lost in straights. And I forgot to predict it man, I had predicted in my mind Anderson would win in 4. And I personally believe he will beat Wawrinka as well. Wawrinka against Young committed around 52 unforced errors and got a breadstick in 2nd set. And I’m 40% sure of atleast 1 tie break in it and if Anderson is clutch enough there, Wawrinka might find it difficult. However he might blow Anderson off the court on that day, you never know.

    Federer vs Isner was an efficient performance from Federer barring the break points in set 1 and set 2. But Isner came up with good serves in some of those points and closed it out. Nevertheless Federer needs to ensure he conserves energy in his quarter final and if he wins there, conserve energy in the semis as well.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Yes Anderson was mentally very good which I noticed in the Thiem match already and why I thought he could beat Murray. He was extremely nervous in the second set but to his credit toughed it out. As for the SF he will be tired after a brutal battle so I won’t be surprised if Stan win despite the h2h. I thought about using Anderson vs Murray as the prediction match, but I made my post too late so I went for the later match to give people time to predict.

    I think Federer is looking good. I think he is physically more rested than last year and playing better. I expect him to defeat Gasquet as usual and if he plays Stan in the SF things could get interesting. If he plays Anderson then Anderson will be too tired I think. That would be a very friendly draw for Federer if that happens. But I guess it’s tough to tell with Federer too these days. He could potentially have an off day vs Gasquet or Gasquet can be in the zone and they play another marathon like last year which would be bad for Federer’s chances.

    [Reply]

    Hari Reply:

    Totally agreed with the last words. When you are 30+ in tennis, your body is not the same everyday. On some days the body doesn’t feel good and there is a possibility of an off day. It can happen anytime. You never know that and can’t predict that.

    But I believe Federer should get the job done against Gasquet and need not think or worry about the semi final opponent should he progress.

    On another note, Murray seems to lose to players who either play first strike tennis like Federer, Wawrinka or who can overpower their opponent using serve or heavy groundstrokes like Del Potro. And ofcourse to Djokovic. He needs to solve these issues or else he will not gain the belief for winning more slams, even if you say the players who eliminated him in slams were too good on the day.
    Plus he is passive these days, doesn’t always come up with proactive tennis. And that hurts his chances alot.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Well I think Anderson played damn well. I always thought he had a game to hurt the best players but mentally was an entirely different story. So now that he got it together mentally I’m not surprised he beat Murray. You can’t say Murray did much wrong. He is not a player with a big game let’s be honest. He is still extremely defensive in a lot of ways, closer to Nadal than to Djokovic.

    He has the kind of mentality that drives opponents insane where he just keeps retrieving every damn ball. It’s a negative type game which frankly I enjoy seeing lose to players with a great offense. This is the problem for Murray and these days Nadal. When they come up against a great offensive player who is on their game they will get hit off the court and ain’t a damn thing they can do about it.

    That is just the price they pay for being negative, relentless retrievers and I’m happy about it. I don’t group Djokovic with Nadal and Murray because I view him as an offensive defender compared to the other two who I view as defensive defenders. Djokovic doesn’t mindlessly retrieve. He actually uses defense to get into an offensive position. He asks opponents very difficult questions by hitting deep with pace and precision without necessarily hitting outright winners.

    And of course he is also a very competent offensive player.

    [Reply]

    Hari Reply:

    No you certainly can’t keep Djokovic in that category. The 2011 Djokovic was more defensive but after that 2012 Australian Open I guess he realised for good that such a style of play is harmful. Had he played the same way, he may have had more success in slams but he won’t have improved as a player for sure and he may have jeopardised his chances in future to contend for grand slams and the big prizes.

    Murray needs to come out of that style or else he may not win much in future.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Interesting perspective Hari. Never really thought of it like that. But he sure did improve his offensive game which shows intelligence, flexibility, and vision. You see he had the ability and talent to become more offensive. I don’t think Nadal ever had that ability. Murray maybe but he’s a crafty player.

    He’s not the guy who will just dominate opponents and get many free points. Anyway, Djokovic’s improved offensive game should bode well for his chances at the USO which is one of the faster slams. Hopefully, he can pick up a couple more titles before the end of his career. Offense is big for him in NY, just like it was at Wimby.

    He needs to keep winning free points off that serve and step into his forehand. He said after his last match that he became too defensive in the 2nd set which shows me that he is thinking about the right things. He cannot allow guys to dominate him on these courts.

    [Reply]

    Hari Reply:

    Your last statement was the main reason why he lost only to both the Swiss players last year despite doing little wrong. Yes Djokovic is one I have followed since his career started and he has improved by leaps and bounds. Murray has also improved surely but in his deep mind he still fears taking risks and goes for defense first which is surely a good tactic in football but in tennis you always have a possibility of being blown off the court.

    [Reply]

    Hari Reply:

    On another note, Gasquet is one player who I feel could have easily had multiple slams had he been stronger mentally. He is too talented. He has got a beautiful game and surely has the game to beat the best. But he checks out of matches and though he has gotten stronger mentally over the years, it’s not enough.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Right. French players tend to have that problem.

    [Reply]

  5. Incredible analysis! I wish I had an ounce of your intelligence and tennis knowledge. Then I’d be somebody too.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Lol. It’s just a hobby and it doesn’t make you ‘somebody’. You need some perspective on life.

    [Reply]

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