For people living in the Eastern Time Zone in Canada (EDT) and the United States, it doesn’t take exceptional numerical aptitude to figure out the time in China these days.
A 360-degree forward wind on the clock-face and they know what time it is in Beijing and Shanghai.
Simply, if it’s 1 a.m. here, it’s 1 p.m. over there. Tennis matches going on in the afternoon in those two metropolises are taking place in the middle of the night on this side of the world.
So following what’s going on at the highest level of pro tennis these weeks is for insomniacs, not for the average Joe or Josephine hoping for seven or eight hours of sleep a night.
Thankfully there’s TennisTV.com to provide coverage – especially with its “full replay” option. That means that tennis lovers can get a decent night’s sleep and then settle in for a morning – maybe with a bowl of cereal as in the picture here – of playing catch-up with what has happened overnight.
Last week that was mainly at the China Open in Beijing where the men and women were playing – featuring the likes of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova and Flavia Pennetta. But the latter three top-seeded women just won a total of two matches as the top-seeded Halep retired in her first match with an Achilles injury, Kvitova was upset in her opening round and recent US Open champion Pennetta only managed to get through two rounds before exiting.
The useful aspect of TennisTV.com’s “full replay” option is that viewers can fast forward – skipping ahead to get a feel for what’s going on in the match without having to linger through warm-ups, change-overs and games that don’t seem to have too much relevance to the ultimate outcome.
One drawback is that the time indicator at the bottom of the screen can give away exactly how long a match is going to run. That mainly occurs after a first set when minimal space remaining shows that the match is going to be over soon – or a larger space which is a dead give-away that it’s going to go three sets.
Last Friday and Saturday there were lots of matches to follow, a perfect occasion to dip ’n sip portions of all the matches on offer.
Here are a bunch of impressions from different match-ups:
Hard to believe, but the beginning of the third set of the quarter-final between Nadal and Jack Sock at the China Open was delayed by a fight in the crowd – between two females!
Then there was a glimpse of Ana Ivanovic – looking good having seemingly added a few needed kilos – in a long-sleeved top on a coolish Beijing evening.
Unfortunately, the Serb, who turns 28 in less than a month, is still anything but a gutsy battler who’s super composed and confident. When her coach – 22-year-old Englishman Andrew Bettles substituting for regular coach Nigel Sears – came out for an on-court coaching visit (above), she said in a weepy voice, “I don’t know what to do.” She was playing Timea Bacsinszky and Bettles emphasized that she should keep playing to the Swiss woman’s (more vulnerable) forehand.
Hampered in the late going by a leg issue, she was beaten 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 by the 26-year-old Bacsinszky, who capped an inspirational return from tennis obscurity (No. 285 in 2013) by reaching No. 10 in this week’s WTA rankings.
A round earlier, Ivanovic had beaten Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 24-year-old Russian who was dominant as a junior in 2006 at age 15. Now ranked No. 29, it has always been a mystery why she hasn’t been better as a pro, reaching a career-high No. 13 in 2011. On the surface it seems that the answer is straight-forward – she’s a big hitter who just misses too much.
Much different than Pavlyuchenkova is 30-year-old American Bethanie Mattek-Sands. She has survived several injuries and extended periods away from the game – including hip surgery in 2008 – and continues to play arguably the most enterprising tennis on the women’s tour. Fearless about going to the net, and deft once she gets there, BMS rallied from 5-1 down in the second set against eventual winner Garbiñe Muguruza in the quarter-finals in Beijing with brilliant attacking tennis. She was finally beaten 6-1, 7-5. These days, BMS is a genuine original in women’s tennis – and a terrific doubles player with partner Lucie Safarova.
Muguruza, the Spaniard who was Wimbledon runner-up this year, appears to be one of the most likeable of the WTA’s athletes. She had her 22nd birthday last Wednesday and wound up celebrating by going on to win the China Open title by beating Bacsinszky 7-5, 6-4 in the final.
As well as sympathizing with Muguruza for her winsome personality, anyone who has experienced acne had to feel for her as she is going through a phase with touches of it on both cheeks.
There were other interesting snippets to be had while skipping ahead through live-streamed matches. One involved the ever combustible Fabio Fognini as he flirted with disqualification during his semifinal with Nadal. Trailing by a set and 1-0, the Italian had his racquet down by his side and sort of flicked it backwards in anger after losing a point. It appeared to slip out of his hand and flew a foot or two above the ground and ended up in the back screen. Had it struck a linesperson or a ballboy, fiery Fabio would likely have been defaulted post haste by umpire Mohamed Lahyani. As it was Lahyani gave Fognini a warning for “unsportsmanlike conduct.” Fognini argued that it was accidental but by the animated reaction of Nadal’s coach in the crowd, it was obvious Uncle Toni thought otherwise.
One other quirky happening on the weekend occurred before the final of the Japan Open in Tokyo even began. Stan Wawrinka and Benoit Paire, who are best buds, had arrived on the court with the retractable roof recently opened. It was raining very slightly but apparently the forecast was good. Nonetheless, the players, mainly Wawrinka, complained that the roof, which had been closed all morning, should not have been opened. Tour supervisor Tom Barnes finally came out and eventually acceded to the wishes of Wawrinka and Paire. The two players went off court for about 15 minutes until the roof was closed. Wawrinka wound up winning the final 6-2, 6-4 but it seemed unnecessary to close the roof on what is supposed to be an outdoor tournament.
The eventual winners in China, Djokovic 6-2, 6-2 over Nadal, and Muguruza will both be in the respective tours’ year-end championships in London and Singapore.
While Djokovic is having his second best career year after 2011, Muguruza has found new life after a dismal run at summer events following her breakthrough at Wimbledon – losses in the first round of Toronto (Rogers Cup), the first round in Cincinnati, the second round of the US Open and second round in Tokyo.
But she reached the final – retiring in the second set against Venus Williams with a left ankle injury – in Wuhan, China, two weeks ago and then last week won her biggest career title, the Premier Mandatory China Open.
That moved her ranking up to No. 4 and incredibly, she is just a single point – 4,690 to 4,691 – behind Maria Sharapova for third spot.
— wta (@WTA) October 11, 2015
Here’s a happy Muguruza after her win in Beijing.
The victory has revived the coaching career of Sam Sumyk. The Frenchman did all he could to snap Genie Bouchard out of her spring swoon before they parted company in July. Working with Muguruza beginning with the fall Asian swing, he has had the kind of success with the talented Barcelonan that many expected him to have with Bouchard.
Genie ’15: Over and out
Genie Bouchard’s 2015 season would appear to be finished after she had to withdraw from her opening-round match in Beijing last week with recurring problems related to her concussion at the US Open.
— Genie Bouchard (@geniebouchard) October 7, 2015
Later in the week, Bouchard, 21, tweeted (above) her regrets about not being able to play this week’s WTA International event in Hong Kong. A year ago she was a late pull-out when the tournament was played the week following the US Open.
Currently No. 39 in the WTA rankings and likely to drop to No. 50 or so when she loses the points she earned a year ago in Linz (30) and at the WTA Finals (210) in Singapore, it’s interesting to speculate on what might have happened if she had not had the accident in the US Open locker room late in the evening after beating Dominka Cibulkova in a third-round match.
Her performance that day had been a revelation – almost as if in one inspired effort she had rekindled the form that took her as high as No. 5 in the world last October.
Had she been able to play Roberta Vinci in the round-of-16 two days after the fall, many observers believe she would have won. There was just something about her reinvigorated tennis and she seemed to be riding a high that would carry over against the eventual Flushing Meadows finalist. Similarly, she could have beaten Kristina Mladenovic – despite two losses to the Frenchwoman during the European spring season – in the quarter-finals and reached the semifinal against Serena Williams.
That would have earned her 540 more points than just getting to the round-of-sixteen and given her a current ranking of about No. 26. Subtract the 240 points she would still be losing over the rest of 2015, and she would likely have finished at about No. 32 for the year, earning a seeding at the 2016 Australian Open.
What about if she had defeated Williams, as Vinci astoundingly did, in the semifinals? Her ranking would probably have been about No. 25.
And, of course, that doesn’t take into account any positive results she would have accumulated during the autumn season had the concussion not intervened.
Pospisil wins generational contest
Vasek Pospisil, 25, and his American partner Jack Sock, 23, won the doubles title at the China Open on Sunday defeating Daniel Nestor, 43, and Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasselin, 31, by a score of 3-6, 6-3, [10-6].
The title and the 500 points that go with it moved Pospisil and Sock to ninth place in the race for a spot in the final eight for the ATP World Tour Finals in November in London. They have 2,820 points and trail the No. 8 team of Rohan Bopanna and Florin Mergea who are at 3,455.
Nestor and Roger-Vasselin are in 12th position with 2,080 points. But they have only played five tournaments together, which is the fewest of the teams in contention. Pospisil and Sock have the next fewest with 11.
If you compare the No. 1 team of Bob and Mike Bryan and their 6,285 points in 20 tournaments with Nestor and Roger-Vasselin, the Franco-Canadian duo currently average 416 points per event while the Bryans average a more modest 314 points.
With the exception of No. 4 Race team of Jamie Murray and John Peers, all the top duos are entered in this week’s Shanghai Masters 1000 event.
The unseeded pairing of Pospisil and Sock were upset 7-6(3), 7-5 in their opening round on Tuesday by Australians Nick Krygios and Bernard Tomic.
Earlier, Pospisil reached the second round in singles with a 6-3, 6-4 win over qualifier Simone Bolelli. He will now play 11th-seeded Richard Gasquet.
Nestor and Roger-Vasselin, seeded seventh, will start out against the same opponents they beat 7-6(1), 4-6, [11-9] in the opening round in Beijing last week – Leander Paes and Peers.
Milos out of the mist
A surprise opening- round loss to Viktor Troicki in Beijing gave Milos Raonic a little extra time off and he took full advantage by visiting The Great Wall of China.
Raonic, ranked No. 9 but 13th in The Race, got back on track Tuesday with a 7-6(5), 7-6(2) first-round victory over Thomaz Bellucci at the Masters 1000 event in Shanghai. Raonic started very sluggishly – losing his serve to 15 in the opening game and not winning a point in the Brazilian’s first three service games – but recovered and played just well enough to get the win.
He will now face Roberto Bautista Agut, whom he beat 6-2, 7-6(2) in the semifinals on his way to the ATP 250 title in St, Petersburg, Russia, three weeks ago. Bautista Agut was in the crowd watching the Raonic-Bellucci match on Tuesday.
ATP Ranking of winners 2015, Majors 1,9,1,1 Masters 1,1,1,3,1,3,3 and 500 series 8,9,9,5,2,3,5,4. The elite remain thoroughly dominant.
— Nick Lester (@nicklester) October 11, 2015
These are some interesting numbers tweeted by broadcaster Nick Lester last week. That was before Novak Djokovic won the China Open – so an extra ‘1’ can be added to the list following the winners of 2015 500 events.