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July 8, 2012 Article

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Between The Lines By Ray Bowers
 
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Wimbledon Panorama 2012
by Ray Bowers

Ray Bowers Photo
Ray Bowers

Once again a new edition of Wimbledon added to the richness of tennis history. This year's singles winners were veterans Roger Federer and Serena Williams, magnificent athletes both, both playing at levels probably never before seen. Not far behind them were the other male and female superstars, whose talents and determination forced the best from the winners. Then there were the several hundred other players from all parts of the world, whose stories grow too numerous for detailing here. Conveying the totality of the drama is our challenge.
 
THE MEN
 
Mist and light rain was a daily concern from the second day on. The convertible roof over Centre Court was repeatedly closed. Playing tactics generally followed recent grass-court patterns, though net-approaching among the men was 25% more frequent than the average of the previous six Wimbledons. Indeed, the boldness and ability to attack net successfully probably explained the outcome of both men's and women's singles finals. All-out net-rushing remained the exception, however, as most players were reluctant to challenge the stroking accuracy and power produced by today's pros. The frequency of aces and the percentage of points won by servers were 10% lower than the previous average, probably reflecting the cool conditions. The footing seemed treacherous amid the dampness, and players often slipped and fell in changing direction.
 
First week
 
Opening day of the main draw came on Monday 25 June, amid general admiration of the superbly groomed grass, much of it soon to be mutilated. Two major upsets marked the date. The first came when a member of the game's Second Four, Tomas Berdych, was out-powered in three tiebreak sets by Ernsts Gulbis, 23, a once-promising player from Latvia whose upward climb had stalled. The second surprise was the exit of John Isner, whose big serve and complementing all-court skills had seemed advantaged on the grass. Colombian veteran Falla beat Isner in five sets, winning the last two in tiebreakers, where John is usually successful.
 
The drama of the early rounds also included the unusual success of those players who had just emerged from defeating three opponents in the qualifying rounds. Most were ranked in the world's second hundred. Of the sixteen successful qualifiers, a surprising number, ten, would win their first main-draw match. Almost surely, the grass-court play in the qualifiers gave these players an important edge against opponents not having this tune-up.
 
For most, the glory would be fleeting. Only two qualifiers would win their second-round matches -- American Brian Baker, 27, recently returned after an almost unbroken interruption since 2006 for various surgeries, and Jerzy Janowicz, 21, from Poland, who in five sets now defeated Gulbis, conqueror of Berdych. Both would play creditably thereafter, Janowicz next losing in five sets to seeded Mayer and Baker winning a third time before losing to seeded Kohlschreiber.
 
After two rounds of men's singles and most of the first round in doubles, the tally of match-wins among the nations was taking form:
 
U.S.A., 16.0
France, 15.5
Germany, 12.0
Spain, 9.5
 
Germany was the outsider in the above group, the other three having alternated in finishing atop the tally in every Slam since 2005.
 
Including Baker and Janowicz, the number of unseeded players reaching the third round and thus penetrating the tournament's final 32 was twelve -- close to the usual number. One of these intruders on Thursday evening achieved one of the most improbable reversals in tennis history.
 
Rosol d. Nadal, 67 64 64 26 64
 
There was complete humility, perhaps even apology, in the manner of Lukas Rosol in accepting the applause of the starry-eyed gallery after Lukas's impossible defeat of Rafael Nadal. But there had been no humility in the purposeful assurance of Lukas throughout the five sets just ended. His air of total concentration, his confident movement between points, never faded. There was occasionally a trace of a snarl of the upper lip.
 
For the first four sets, the tall and wiry athlete, age 26 at height 6-5, from Czech Republic, served and stroked with abandon, showing the disbelieving watchers depth, pace, accuracy, and disguise with almost every blow -- first-strike tennis unwavering. In point after point, Lukas pushed Rafa deep and into the corners, ripping away with a quiet fury that Rafa never answered for long. Rafa gradually abandoned his softer shot-making, the heavy spins that typically softened up an opponent but on this day only gave Lukas feast. But when Rafa raised his game to answer Lukas's, the answer was even heavier artillery from the other side.
 
Nadal's resolve stayed high. Rafa won the first set in an extended tiebreaker after saving several set points. But Lukas remained as unruffled and purposeful as before, and there was no drop-off in his dominating play. Sets two and three went to the determined and confident Czech, set four to a Rafa able to reverse the flow as Lukas dropped off slightly. Darkness then forced a half-hour's delay while the convertible roof was closed and the indoor lighting ignited.
 
Perhaps the rest helped Rosol. Lukas started the fifth set unleashing a yet higher level of serving and stroking rocketry, winning a well-contested break of Rafa's serve. But what followed was even more remarkable. Playing with absolutely no trace of nerves, and especially as the scoreboard marched closer to the finish, Lukas produced a run of aces and first-strike winners that Rafa could answer only by shaking his head.
 
Lukas had been on our active watch list since last August, when our computer detected his strong move into the world's first hundred. But since then, Lukas's results had shown no further upward progress. Was his historic achievement Thursday evening a one-time realization of an elusive zone of perfection? Lukas would lose a straight-setter to Kohlschreiber in the next round.
 
Middle Rounds
 
The drama was almost as high on Friday, when Julien Benneteau won the first two sets from Roger Federer and carried matters to a long tiebreaker in set four. Julien had defeated Roger in their most recent meeting, and for four sets on this date alternated with Roger in dominating points and in striking winners. Again and again, Roger was two points from defeat in that fourth set, but he repeatedly avoided the treacherous match-point situation. Roger closely survived the fourth set, and then ran out the fifth amid leg-cramping by Julien. Federer d. Benneteau, 46 67 62 76 61.
 
The three surviving Big Four members and the most prominent outsiders all passed their next tests. Federer had back trouble but survived a four-setter against Malisse. Djokovic overcame the initially strong net attack of Stepanek, then collected two straight-set wins over other opponents. Andy Murray was extended by Baghdatis but finally squeezed by at the late-night deadline. David Ferrer beat Roddick in four, then needed only three in dismissing del Potro. Tsonga overcame a net-attacking Fish in four close sets.
 
The quarter-finals unfolded on schedule Wednesday amid still-stormy weather. Federer advanced fairly comfortably, Djokovic the same, although Florian Mayer, occupying Gasquet's presumed place, made matters interesting for Djokovic in two of the sets with a strong serve and a varied assortment of ground strokes. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeated Kohlschreiber in four, thereby claiming the semi-final place originally slotted for Nadal.
 
By far the commanding match of the quarters was between Andy Murray and David Ferrer. David had won their last two meetings, and stood ahead of Andy in the 2012 year-to-date rankings. Their struggle proved indeed spectacular, bringing combat of high intensity and featuring countless magnificent points. David won the first set in a tiebreaker and led in the second but failed to close out, serving. Andy then won that set's tiebreaker, equalizing the scoreboard.. After that it was the easier power of Andy in stroking that kept down the relentless David, forced to work the harder in rallies. Then too there were thunderous serves by Andy that seemed to come when most needed. A. Murray d. Ferrer, 67 76 64 76.
 
Semi-finals
 
After losing a torpid second set, the scoreboard now at one-set-all, Roger Federer stepped up his play. It was Sir Roger at his attacking best -- driving with full power and purposeful direction on every shot. For Novak Djokovic, it was the kind of tennis where he usually excels -- long, violent exchanges, corner-to-corner, both players at extreme effort, both determined not to miss. In much of the early going, as usual, Djokovic had been the one to outlast his opponent.
 
But now the outward signals were unmistakable, Roger -- an unaccustomed underdog --- looked composed and intensely determined, having found his best zone of perfection. Meanwhile Novak seemed anxious, the defending champion hesitant in calling for his best. There were still many prolonged exchanges, but it was now Novak who sometimes pulled back from risk only to produce a deciding error.
 
The war for set three, indeed for the critical service break in that set, became supreme. Novak only narrowly survived game six, serving, but then reached a break point in game nine, forfeiting that opportunity with a loose service return. The precious break came in game ten, by narrow margin, when Novak missed a stretched overhead and Roger made an almost identical shot soon afterwards.
 
With Federer ahead two sets to one, the fourth set was anti-climax. A shaken Novak lost his first serving game, contributing several bad errors. Only in the final game did Djokovic then threaten Roger's serving, the score reaching 30-all. But Roger's big guns finished matters two points later. Federer d. Djokovic, 63 36 64 63.
 
The roof had been closed during the first semi-final. But the clouds broke at mid-afternoon, and soon the roof was opened and full sunshine awakened the Centre Court grass for the second semi.
 
Andy Murray had the easier power, but Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was the physically stronger athlete and commanded the heavier weight of shot. Andy was the better rallier, however, or so Jo-Wilfried seemed to believe. Throughout, Jo-Wilfried was by far the more aggressive in attacking net, overall winning 45 of 76 net approaches (59%). He came forward directly behind first serve frequently and behind second serve more than occasionally, delivering many spectacular winning volleys. It was a change from Jo-Wilfried's pattern against his previous opponent, Kohlschreiber, whose net approaches outnumbered Tsonga's.
 
The whirlwind caused some trouble for Murray, whose serve-returning perhaps lost some effectiveness. But the sense of desperation in Jo-Wilfried's tactics was never far off. With the home-nation crowd solidly on his side, and with no hint of the negativity sometimes seen in the past, Andy completed his business very well. A. Murray d. Tsonga, 63 64 36 75.
 
Final: Federer d. A. Murray, 46 75 63 64
 
The intensity and quality of the men's final defies description. This was not the Andy Murray hanging well behind baseline, unwilling to risk attacking, content to use his vast power mainly to extend points. Instead Andy played close to baseline, aggressively battering shots toward opponent's corners, moving further forward when opportunity arose, showing skill at net in volleying and overhead work.
 
Roger was also offensive-minded, less surprisingly, but his resolve in coming forward was stronger than has been seen since his early years, perhaps since his very first Wimbledon crown in 2003. Andy's potent ground strokes and court-covering speed made Roger's net-attacking forward risky, but Roger, who of course respected Andy's countering ability, proved willing to trust his own volleying ability, pressuring Andy by coming forward in situations that would be disastrous if tried by most other players. (Tsonga had attacked net frequently but still lost to Andy.) Not accustomed to answering an opponent's strong presence at net, Andy's replies to Roger's forays were again and again unsuccessful. The official tally showed Roger at net 68 times, winning 53. Both numbers were astonishing. Andy too was very good at net, but he won fewer than half as many points there as did Roger, and at a lesser winning percentage.
 
Both men served well, Murray leading in aces, 16 vs. 12, as well as in first-serve average speed. Andy's quickness and range in serve-returning denied Roger a higher ace count, but the serve was nevertheless important in Roger's victory, his first-serve winning percentage finishing considerably higher than Andy's.
 
The scoreboard correctly reflected the shifting momentum between the two, Andy starting off atop his opponent. Roger then turned matters his way, though many individual games were laboriously contested, their outcomes almost randomly determined it seemed. A delay for roof-closing early in the third set may have changed the flow, perhaps helping Roger in his need for precision in serving and stroking. Slippery conditions from high humidity soon after roof closure may have contributed to Andy's several falls in the critical service-break game in set three.
 
It was Roger's 17th Slam, his seventh Wimbledon, equaling Sampras's Wimbledon total. The triumph restored his place atop the official (12-month) rankings as well as atop the 2012 year-to-date standings.
 
Other laurels
 
As elusive as ever was the men's Wimbledon triple -- winning the singles, doubles, and mixed, last achieved by a male player in 1952, by Frank Sedgman. This year only one player, Phillip Petzschner, won at least one match in all three events. But the leader in match wins across the board was Mike Bryan, who won four men's doubles matches with partner Bob Bryan and 5 mixed-doubles matches with partner Lisa Raymond.
 
The tournament's foremost overachiever (compared with seeded level) was Brian Baker, who won the qualifying rounds (one credit) and in the main draw reached the final 32 and final 16, thus attaining a total of three levels of over-achievement. Seven other players achieved two levels.
 
The U.S. men led the contingents of all other nations in total match wins. (Each partner obtains for his nation half credit for each win in doubles and mixed.)
 
U.S.A., 28.0 match wins
France, 21.5
Germany, 18.0
 
THE WOMEN
 
First Wednesday produced two noteworthy upsets, where unseeded younger players knocked out members of the Second Four in drama-filled three-setters. Netherlander Arantxa Rus, 21 at height 5-11, had entered the first hundred last year and had attained her present rank of #71 after a good run at Garros. Now, she defeated Samantha Stosur in a three-setter that extended Samantha's dismal history at Wimbledon. Meanwhile Tamira Paszek, 21, who had won the recent grass tournament at Eastbourne, again showed excellent grass-court assets, including aggressive ground-strokes, fine court coverage, and strong nerves. Her victim, Caroline Wozniacki, fought well to the finish but could not equal these strengths of Tamira this day.
 
Of the twelve females rising from the qualifying rounds, five would win their first main-draw match, three of these would win their second, and one would reach the final 16. That was Camila Giorgi, 20, from Italy, who defeated two seeded players before losing to Radwanska in the fourth round.
 
The Russian women had finished on top in the tally of match wins at the last seven Wimbledons. But the chances of the Russkayas after two rounds of singles and one of women's doubles this year now seemed insecure.
 
Russia, 14.0
U.S.A., 14.0
Italy, 11.0
Czech Republic, 10.0
 
Middle rounds
 
Serena's passage through the third round was not easy. Zheng Jie covered court well and often answered Serena's power with well-placed counter-blows. Zheng's limited reach, at height 5-4, made her vulnerable to Serena's well-placed first serves and high-kicking second serves. Serena's overall edge in aces, 23-1, turned the match to the American, especially the overtime third set. Serena's ace total was a new women's record for Wimbledon.
 
The same day -- a strange Saturday -- produced a set decided in just 24 points, thought to be the first in Slam history. The winner of the Golden Set was Yaroslava Shvedova, who defeatedng the recent Garros runner-up, Errani. Yaroslava had made a strong run at the recent Garros and would face Serena Williams to start Second Monday.
 
For one set Serena produced her best tennis, scorching the lines with winning serves and strokes. But Yaroslava then began reacting better to the American's power, answering with plenty of mustard of her own, often well directed. The second set was Yaroslava's and the third stayed close, even as Yaroslava continued to match Serena in serving and stroking velocities. Toward the end, the heavy humidity turned to a light mist, and a few umbrellas appeared. Yaroslava removed her glasses, and the quality of her play slipped slightly as Serena soon afterwards collected the third set's only break of serve and the victory. S. Williams d. Shvedova, 61 26 75.
 
The victory of Sabine Lisicki over Sharapova was assuredly earned. Probably the key feature was the German star's severe first serve, which outpaced Maria's by an average of 7 mph and led to Sabine's edge in first-serve points won, 32 vs. 20. Sabine's blistering game earned her the early break in both sets and helped her fend off Maria's resurgence in both. The slippery conditions probably hurt Maria, as Sabine moved and stroked closer to the ground, even as her bent knees added to her weight of shot. Lisicki had been Wimbledon semi-finalist in 2011, losing to Sharapova by the identical score of her current victory. Lisicki d. Sharapova, 64 63.
 
The success of the younger brigade continued. Despite her handicap amid wind and dampness, Petra Kvitova defeated veteran Francesca Schiavone. Kvitova led in points won at net in the third set, 8 vs. 1. Then Angelique Kerber defeated Kim Clijsters, who showed only glimpses of her once greatness.
 
Quarter-finals
 
Thus the survivors reaching the quarter-finals were Serena Williams, 30, along with seven younger superstars, median age just 22.
 
Under the closed Centre Court roof, Petra Kvitova, 22, and Serena Williams traded blistering serves and serve-returns -- full-power exchanges, neither player letting up in concentration or will. Serena's ground strokes were generally the safer, carrying the greater topspin. Meanwhile Kvitova was the more dominating in the rallies, the tall Czech unlimbering her heavy artillery often close to the lines, forcing Serena to use her considerable defensive abilities. The outcome was decided in two fairly short stretches.
 
The first came midway in set one, Kvitova serving, when Petra entered one of her sometimes-seen spells of error-making. It lasted only a few points, but it was enough to produce the only service-break of the first set. The second turning point came late in set two with Serena serving, set-point down. For the next few minutes Serena produced her most spectacular tennis of the day -- superb serving and stroking to save game ten, then forceful blows to break through in game eleven, and finally three clean aces and a barely touched near-ace to capture game twelve and the match. S. Williams d. Kviitova, 63 75.
 
One day after her emotional victory over Sharapova, Sabine Lisicki, 22, faced another rising German player, Angelique Kerber, 24. Sabine seemed emotionally unready, not able to reproduce her recent level of play, as always striking hard but now with too many wild errors. Angelique answered with fine, tight tennis -- excellent anticipation and movement, avoidance of error, good use of angles to create openings and good counter-punching to exploit those openings. The first set went fast to Angelique.
 
Angelique led early in set two, but Sabine then began finding a safer level of boldness. Sabine survived three match points to finally prevail in the tiebreaker, thus equalizing matters at one set all. Sabine still led by a vast margin in winners but also in errors.
 
The flip-flopping continued in set three. Sabine moved ahead in games, 5-3, but Sabine lost her perfection while Angelique, no longer impassive but now alternating between anger and despair, produced several winners which, along with Sabine's mistakes turned the last four games and the victory to Angelique. Kerber d. Lisicki 63 67 75.
 
Meanwhile Agnieszka Radwanska, 23, and Maria Kirilenko, 25, struggled to reach a decision amid several rain breaks. Maria was generally the heavier server, the more aggressive in court play, thus holding her own against a talent now ranked among the Big Four. Maria had become a favorite among watchers living here in Virginia, as she had regularly practiced at our club last winter, her rocketry dazzling our senior doubles group on the next court. But Maria finally lost the close third set to Agnieszka after an overnight interruption. A. Radwanska d. Kirilenko, 75 4 63.
 
In evening action indoors, Victoria Azarenka, 22, gradually found how to turn her stronger game into a victory on the score-board over unseeded Tamira Paszek, 21, conqueror of Wozniacki earlier. Azarenka d. Paszek 63 76.
 
Semis
 
Agnieszka Radwnska's game is built on her excellent defensive abilities and her avoidance of error in rallying. But she also often creates openings, not by employing extreme power, but by deception and moderately forceful placement. When the opening comes, she exploits it with good power, accuracy, and effective forecourt play.
 
It was a formula that Angelique Kerber could not answer except by early and frequent application of aggressive power, a style that worked at times but was blunted by Radwanska's anticipation and counter-punching. A.Radwanska d. Kerber, 63 64.
 
Meanwhile, Serena's victory over Victoria Azarenka was not easily won -- made possible almost wholly by Serena's magnificent serving. In rallying, Vika was usually the better player, striking with greater velocity, depth, and avoidance of error, though Serena's backhand too was often dangerous.
 
Serena won the first set with a single break of serve, and the two exchanged service breaks in the second. The set-ending tiebreak game reached six points all. With pressure now at its most intense for both players, it was the usually consistent Vika who faltered, yielding two unforced errors in rallies that seemed in her favor. On her second match point opportunity, Serena closed with another center-line ace, her 24th ace of the match, breaking her own recent Wimbledon record. S. Williams d. Azarenka, 63 76.
 
Final: S. Williams d. A. Radwanska , 61 57 62
 
Serena was at her powerful best through the brief first set. Agnieszka was fortunate to win just one game amid Serena's heavy hitting and Agnieszka's own fairly numerous errors. Serena's aces were fewer than in her previous matches, but the American's strong serving and serve-returning indicated an early and victorious finish ahead.
 
But as set two began after a rain delay, Serena's edge suddenly vanished. Agnieszka had stepped up her own hitting and was no longer offering Serena easy attacking opportunities. As the points lengthened, Agnieszka's superiority in avoiding errors became almost complete. Even so, it seemed that a service break early in the second set by Serena would stand up. But in an intense seventh game, Serena's first serve failed almost completely, even as the hint of tentativeness earlier shown by Serena now became a clear loss of confidence. Agnieszka -- now playing at her best, giving away nothing -- won that seventh game and then equalized the score at four games all. Serena's anxieties grew after that, and the tortured favorite yielded another serving game and, with it, the second set.
 
Agnieszka started the third set well, so it was critical for Serena to quickly regain her top game. Agniezka held serve twice, Serena once. But the fourth game produced the shocker, Serena serving. Agnieszka's racket never touched the ball. The game consisted of four ball strikes -- all aces by Serena.
 
The score was still even, two games all, and there would be more good play by Agnieszka. But with Serena again serving and serve-returning with confidence and also, perhaps more importantly, again regularly following her own forceful strikes into forecourt, the verdict was now in Serena's hands. Agnieszka would not win another game.
 
For Serena, the road to the crown had been difficult. The new champion had struggled through three-setters against two early opponents and had then faced members of the current Big Four in her last three matches. It was Serena's fourteenth Slam singles crown and also her fifth Wimbledon. Against an outstanding stroker and defender, Serena led in aces 17-4 and in points won at net, 20-13. As for her victim, Agnieszka, just 23, her fine adjustment after the dismal start in her first Slam final betold a bright future ahead.
 
The Wimbledon results raise Azarenka into first place in the 2012 year-to-date order, narrowly ahead of Sharapova. Radwanska remains third, and Serena is fourth, up four places.
 
Other Laurels
 
Serena's triumph in both singles and, with sister Venus, in doubles adds to a remarkable recent history in this achievement. The sisters won the doubles crown four times previously, in 2000, 2002, 2008 and 2009. In all four of those years, one of the sisters also won the singles. Thus starting in 2000, the only players winning the same-year singles and doubles at Wimbledon have been Venus (twice) and Serena (three times).
 
The full triple has been much rarer. No woman has won the singles, doubles, and mixed in the same year since Billie Jean King in 1973. The closest this year was Serena, who scored seven wins in singles and six in doubles. Serena's total of 13 placed her ahead of second-place Lisa Raymond, who won four matches in doubles and five in mixed. Three women won at least one match in all three events (Shvedova, Vinci, and Vesnina).
 
Serena also joined two other women as the tournament's top overachiever in singles (compared with seeded level). All three scored at three levels of overachievement, as follows:
 
-- Camila Giorgi, 20 -- won the qualifying rounds for one credit, then reached the final 32 and final 16 -- total three credits
-- Tamira Paszek, 21 -- unseeded, reached the final 32, 16, and 8 -- total three credits
-- Serena Williams, 30 -- seeded #6, reached the final 4, 2, and 1 -- total three credits
 
The contingent of women from U.S.A. finished on top in the count of matches won by nation. The previous success of the Russian women in collecting this honor had been unbroken since 2005.
 
U.S.A., 33.5 matches won
Russia, 23.5
Italy, 19.5
 
Serena's contribution to the American total was large, having won the singles and, with sister Venus, the women's doubles crowns. American Lisa Raymond won the mixed doubles with partner Mike Bryan. The men's doubles winners were Jonathan Marray of Britain and Frederik Nielsen of Denmark. Marray showed that personal integrity is more important than winning by calling a net-touch against himself.
 
The success of the Americans in achieving first place in both the men's and women's tallies is noteworthy. No nation had done so at Wimbledon since the U.S. in 2004.
 
Olympics 2012
 
Authorities are confident that fresh grass can be grown prior to the start of Olympic tennis at Wimbledon starting 28 July. Nearly all the top performers just seen will be on hand. The doubles and mixed should be interesting, as all entries must be same-nation pairs. The men's singles will be best-of-three sets rather than best-of-five.
 
The same week will offer the Citi Open here in Washington, bringing both men's and women's main-tour action and doubtlessly showcasing some of the sport's young risers.
 
--Ray Bowers, Arlington, Virginia, U.S.A.
 
APPENDIX: WATCHING THE WATCH LISTS -- THE MEN
 
Last month we reviewed our active watch lists of women pros to see how the selectees had been faring. Here, we examine the comparable male selectees.
 
Selected in August 2011
 
Bernard Tomic, 19, 6-5, Australia -- was ranked #68 with 12-month target #26. After a strong run at Australian Open 2012, Bernard then achieved moderately successful results, reaching a career-high ranking of #27 prior to Wimbledon 2012, roughly matching his target level. But he then lost in the first round at Wimby.
 
Florian Mayer, 28, 6-3, Germany -- was ranked #23 with target #15. Florian scored well at U.S. Open 2011 and in the late-year events that followed. His performance slipped backward in 2012, however. Ranked at #29 entering Wimbledon 2012, he there ran off four victories, reaching the quarter-finals before departing against Djokovic.
 
Ryan Harrison, 20, 6-0, U.S.A.-- was ranked #76 with target #46. Since his selection, Ryan has continued his upward climb, by my tally ranking #84 for third trimester of 2011, #44 for first trimester 2012, and #51 for second trimester 2012 to date. His official (12-month) rank reached a career-high #48 after reaching the final four at Eastbourne 2012. He then lost to Djokovic in the second round at Wimbledon.
 
Alex Bogomolov, 29, 5-10, Russia -- was ranked #57. Alex scored very well just after his selection, reaching the final 16 at Cincinnati and final 32 at Montreal and U.S. Open 2011, eventually compiling an impressive #21 rank for the third trimester of 2011. His results declined in 2012, however, so that after losing in the first round at Garros 2012 his official ranking slipped to #46. He did not compete at Wimbledon 2012.
 
Fabio Fognini, 25, 5-10, Italy -- was ranked #64 with target #29. Clay remains Fabio's best surface, as he won twice to reach the final 32 at Garros 2012, and he ranks #29 for 2012 to date on clay. He also won two matches on grass at Eastbourne 2012 before losing to Roddick in split sets. His record otherwise has been undistinguished, however, and he lost to Federer in the second round at Wimbledon. He needs strong performances in the July clay events to equal his ranking of a year previous.
 
Lukas Rosol, 26, 6-5, Czech Republic -- was ranked #69. Lukas's wonderful victory over Nadal at Wimbledon remains the lone validation of his presence on our list. That triumph helped his ranking only a little, however, as he lost his next, third-round match in straight sets. Since his selection here, his main-tour losses have considerably outnumbered his wins, and he seems likely to complete his year on our active watch list ranked barely inside the first hundred.
 
Selected in December 2011
 
Jack Sock, 19, 6-1, U.S.A. -- was ranked #382 with target #124. Jack achieved a career-best ranking of #303 in January 2012 but has not won a main-tour match since. He has not competed since Indian Wells in March.
 
Kei Nishikori, 22, 5-10, Japan -- was ranked #25 with target #13. A quarter-final finish at Australian Open 2012 followed by consistent success in reaching the middle rounds improved his official ranking to a career-high #16 in March 2012. Inactive since April, he returned at Wimbledon 2012, winning two matches before losing to del Potro.
 
Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, 21, 6-0, Germany -- was ranked #81 with target #47. Since his selection Cedrik-Marcel's results have been below the level of the top hundred. He probably needs to return to the Challenger circuit with goal of rebuilding his ranking to obtain direct entry into qualifiers and main-draws.
 
Martin Klizan, 22, 6-3, Slovak Republic -- was ranked #117 with target #64. Strong results in Challengers earned Martin direct entry to both Garros and Wimbledon 2012. He won his first-round matches at both Slams, thus attaining our predicted target ranking and apparently positioning himself for regular success in main-tour events.
 
Matthew Ebden,24, 6-2, Australia -- was ranked #86 with target #60. Continued improvement including a strong run of net-attacking at Indian Wells produced a career-best ranking of #69 in May 2012, but there have been few successes for Matthew since then. He lost to Benoit Paire (listed below) in the first round at Wimbledon 2012.
 
Vasek Pospisil, 22, 6-4, Canada -- was #119 with target #93. My data show that Vasek ranked #87 for first trimester 2012 and #132 for second trimester to date, thus placing him behind but still in range of our predicted target. He won three matches to rise from the qualifiers at Eastbourne recently and then lost his first main-draw match to Ryan Harrison in three close sets. He lost in the first round of Wimbledon in four close sets to Querrey.
 
Benoit Paire, 23, 6-5, France -- was #98 with target #81. Benoit reached the final 32 at Wimbledon 2012, defeating seeded Dogopolov. He attained career-high rank of #55 just previously, having shown improving results throughout 2012 on all surfaces. He is a strong candidate to reappear on our next watch list at midsummer.
 
Selected in April 2012
 
David Goffin, 21, 5-11, Belgium -- was #112 with target #54. David's recent improved results have attracted wide notice. He performed at #39 for second trimester 2012 to date. That included reaching the round of sixteen at Garros 2012, where he lost to Federer in four sets. He then won two main-draw matches at Wimbledon, losing to Fish in three sets, two of them tiebreakers.
 
Denis Kudla, 19, 5-11, U.S.A. -- was #170 with target #87. There have been few successes for Denis since his selection, and his ranking has deteriorated. He played at Garros and Wimbledon but did not advance out of the qualifiers.
 
Albano Olivetti, 20, 6-8, France -- was #330 with target #135. Albano was selected mainly from his remarkable run at Marseilles Indoors, where he defeated Fish and lost closely to Llodra. Since his selection he has made no significant progress toward his target.
 
Milos Raonic, 21, 6-5, Canada-- was #25 with target #8. Milos has performed at a creditable #28 in the trimester soon to expire. He won two matches at Garros, losing to Monaco in five, won two matches at Halle, losing to Federer in split sets, and won one match at Wimbledon, losing to Querrey in four. Improved results should be forthcoming on the hard courts of North American summer.
 
Guido Pella, 22, Argentina -- was #204 with target #111. Guido was selected primarily from his improved results in Challengers, but he has not sustained that level of success since.
 
Marinko Matosevic, 26, 6-3 -- was #121 with target #58. When selected, Marinko appeared at the verge of penetrating the first hundred. Since then, he has indeed done so, performing at #54 for the trimester to date and attaining official (12-month) rank of #72 in June. Following strong results in the grass-court tune-ups including a win over Gasquet at Eastbourne, there came a disappointing first-round loss at Wimbledon.
 
Yuichi Sugita, 23 -- was #163 with target #81. Except for two wins in qualifiers at Wimbledon and two in a grass Challenger at Nottingham, there has been almost no success in Yuichi's resume since his selection here.
 
Summarizing, of the twenty predicted risers in the three increments, above, four appear likely to attain or exceed their 12-month target level (Harrison, Klizan, Paire, and Goffin) and three others still have a reasonable chance of doing so (Tomic, Nishikori, Pospisil). The group selected in April 2012 has been the most disappointing to date.
 
New men's and women's watch lists will be announced at the end of the current trimester (late July or early August).
 

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Between The Lines Archives:
1995 - May 1998 | August 1998 - 2003 | 2004 - 2014


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This column is copyrighted by Ray Bowers, all rights reserved.

Following interesting military and civilian careers, Ray became a regular competitor in the senior divisions, reaching official rank of #1 in the 75 singles in the Mid-Atlantic Section for 2002. He was boys' tennis coach for four years at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Virginia, where the team three times reached the state Final Four. He was named Washington Post All-Metropolitan Coach of the Year in 2003. He is now researching a history of the early pro tennis wars, working mainly at U.S. Library of Congress. A tentative chapter, which appeared on Tennis Server, won a second-place award from U.S. Tennis Writers Association.

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