nodot nodot
Between The Lines
August 24, 2005 Article

Contact Ray Bowers

Latest Between The Lines Article

Between The Lines Archives:
2003 - 2015
August 1998 - 2003
1995 - May 1998

Tennis Server

Do You Want To Be A Better Tennis Player?

Then Sign Up For A Free Subscription to the Tennis Server INTERACTIVE
E-mail Newsletter!

Tom Veneziano You will join 13,000 other subscribers in receiving news of updates to the Tennis Server along with monthly tennis tips from tennis pro Tom Veneziano.
Best of all, it is free!

Tennis Features Icon TENNIS FEATURES:

TENNIS ANYONE? - USPTA Pro John Mills' quick player tip.
TENNIS WARRIOR - Tom Veneziano's Tennis Warrior archive.
TURBO TENNIS - Ron Waite turbocharges your tennis game with tennis tips, strategic considerations, training and practice regimens, and mental mindsets and exercises.
WILD CARDS - Each month a guest column by a new writer.
BETWEEN THE LINES - Ray Bowers takes an analytical and sometimes controversial look at the ATP/WTA professional tour.
PRO TENNIS SHOWCASE - Tennis match reports and photography from around the world.
TENNIS SET - Jani Macari Pallis, Ph.D. looks at tennis science, engineering and technology.
MORTAL TENNIS - Greg Moran's tennis archive on how regular humans can play better tennis.
HARDSCRABBLE SCRAMBLE - USPTA pro Mike Whittington's player tip archive.

Tennis Community Icon TENNIS COMMUNITY:

Tennis Book, DVD, and Video Index
Tennis Server Match Reports
Editor's Letter
Become a Tennis Server Sponsor

Explore The Tennis Net Icon EXPLORE THE TENNIS NET:

Tennis News and Live Tennis Scores
Tennis Links on the Web
Between The Lines By Ray Bowers
Green Dot
Tennis Warehouse Logo
Green Dot

U.S. Open Forecast 2005

Ray Bowers Photo
Ray Bowers

Being the first-seeded male player at U.S. Open hasn't meant much of late. Prior to Roger Federer's triumph last year, only once in the preceding 16 Opens, 1988-2003, had the highest seeded male been the player who eventually raised the championship trophy. (That happened in 1996, when top-seeded Pete Sampras won the fourth of his five U.S. championships.) Meanwhile, previous-year champions fared only a little better.

Federer is both the highest seeded player and the defending champion for U.S. Open 05. But despite the discouraging tendencies noted above, it is difficult to picture Roger not claiming his sixth Slam title. Assuredly, he must produce something close to his best tennis throughout the two weeks, and he will need to summon his absolute best on the several occasions when most needed. But he has repeatedly done these things in the past, and he seems unusually gifted in raising his game in the late rounds.

Roger is also favored in our computerized analysis, which is based on weighted results in various predictor events. Under our scheme, for example, the highest weighted predictor for U.S. Open 05 is U.S. Open 04. The second-heaviest-weighted is Australian Open 05. The calculations are described in the footnote at the end of this column.

Here are the Elite Five as ranked by the calculations, including Roger and the four superstars having the best chances of unseating him.

  1. Roger Federer
  2. Rafael Nadal
  3. Lleyton Hewitt
  4. Andre Agassi
  5. Andy Roddick

Shown below with each candidate is his raw score from the calculations along with his numerical odds for winning U.S. Open 05. The odds are derived from the raw scores, calibrated to achieve an overall probability of 1.0.

#1. ROGER FEDERER, score 7.15, odds 3-2.

There is hardly a dimension of the game in which Roger is not superior. His excellent mobility and superb shot-making weaponry allow him infinite variety in playing style. In my opinion his signature asset is his power forehand drive, where he produces a disguised, extreme topspin that is key to his attacking angles as well as his counterpunching. The topspin comes not primarily from the upward path of his stroke and follow-through but rather from a powerful albeit hardly detectible upward snap of the forearm, wrist, and hand at around the moment of impact. Notice how Roger's racket arm is highly developed, reminiscent of Rod Laver's, who also generated scintillating topspin.

Roger's history since winning U.S. Open 04 offers little encouragement for his forthcoming opponents. He ended last year by capturing Masters Cup in Houston, where he won five matches, all against Top Eight opponents, with loss of only one set. So far in 2005, Roger has lost only three matches, two of them on clay. Against the other members of our Elite Five, his W-L record this year is 7-1, having defeated Agassi twice, Hewitt twice, Roddick twice, and Nadal once. The lone loss was to Nadal in a four-setter on Garros clay. Roger at 24 is at prime age for a champion.

#2. RAFAEL NADAL, 4.40, odds 6-1.

Rafael Nadal's playing style is today's basic clay-court game, lifted to the ultimate degree. His strengths are (1) his superior court mobility, (2) powerful, sweepingly topspun ground strokes, often well angled and delivered with few errors, and (3) excellent tactical skills both in defense and offense. His serve is excellent--firm enough to deny opponent taking the offensive on the return and capable of producing short-point wins (aces, serve-return errors, and serve-return sitters). He likes to play in deep court, employing his superb defensive talents, but he is quick to attack at the right moment.

All the above are hallmarks of a clay-court artist, and indeed most of Rafael's triumphs have come on that surface, including critical Davis Cup contributions in Spain's successful quest for the Cup last year. Without question he is the world's clay-court champion for 2005, havng won Garros 05 along with eight other clay events including Barcelona, Monte Carlo, and Rome.

But if Rafael's game is tailored for success on clay, it is so strong that it is also very effective on hard courts. At Australian Open 05, the unseeded 18-year-old won three matches and led Lleyton Hewitt by two sets to one before losing a fourth-set tiebreak and then the match. In the Masters tournament in Miami in early spring, he won the first two sets against Federer before losing a third-set tiebreak and then the match in five sets.

In August, he captured his first non-clay pro championship--the Canada Open Masters in Montreal, where he won a superb split-set final against Agassi, who was playing at close to his best. A few days later Rafael lost his first-rounder at Cincinnati to hard-hitting Berdych (both of them are now 19), in another seeming example of the "next-week syndrome." The early loss will probably have the effect of improving Nadal's freshness at the Open.

#3. LLEYTON HEWITT, 3.69, odds 10-1.

Lleyton's mobility and hitting strengths will probably carry him through four or five rounds. But his chances against the prime favorite, assuming Roger is close to his best, seem faint. Since January 2004, Lleyton and Roger have played each other eight times, all in Masters events or Slams. Roger has won all eight, leading in sets won 21-2. Lleyton lost a hard-hitting two-setter to Andy Roddick in Cincinnati.

#4. ANDRE AGASSI, 3.55, odds 12-1.

Since forcing Federer to five sets at last year's U.S. Open, Andre's career has been troubled by hip and back problems. Cortisone injections have allowed him to compete at close to his best, but the agony has invariably recurred. Thus after winning at Los Angeles this summer and then reaching the final at Montreal, he once again returned to Las Vegas for recovery, upon which his readiness for the Open must depend.

The Agassi-Nadal showdown in Montreal showcased the strengths of both men. Rafael's heavily overspun ground-strokes gave Andre trouble off the bounce and especially when Andre was forced to move quickly to a side. Andre therefore took the initiative, closing on net more often than he usually does. Andre's advantage was in serving and in obtaining quick points. Though he lost the match, Andre seemed fresher than Rafael at the end, probably because of Nadal's willingness to play defensively in deep court and allow Agassi to keep him on the run.

Assuming that Andre's physical recovery permits, we can expect to see him advance through the early rounds and severely test any other member of our elite group, including especially Nadal, whose quarter of the draw he shares.

#5. ANDY RODDICK, 3.52, odds 12-1.

Andy's recent record against Federer provides only a little more hope than Lleyton's. In eleven career head-to-head meetings, Federer has won ten. Roger also leads in sets won, 24-4. Four of their meetings have been in hard-court Masters matches outdoors, Andy winning at Canada 03, Roger winning at Canada 04, Masters Cup 04, and Cincinnati 05.

To defeat Roger, Andy must play with good power at something close to perfection, and he must sustain this level of play not just momentarily but throughout three winning sets. He can win some quick points in serving, and he must serve-and-volley at least occasionally to deny Roger's past tactic of simply floating back his serve returns from deep. To win points otherwise, Andy must deliver his patented rockets to the corners, two or more in succession, coming to net to finish only after such a barrage. Meanwhile Andy must hold down his own errors while protecting his own side of the court to Roger's ripping ripostes. Key to breaking Roger's serve will be Andy's obtaining the baseline equilibrium preparatory to his barrage--i.e., neutralizing Roger's initial serving advantage--or, if Roger forces to net, Andy's reacting quickly to run down every possible volley or half-volley by Roger.

Roddick reached the final in Cincinnati by defeating Hewitt in their semi behind 23 aces. Andy also showed a varied attacking game, well executed, following serve to net more often than he usually does. Against Roger in the final, Andy served less well, showing a relatively low first-serve in-court percentage, volleyed less well, and misfired too frequently in his all-court game.


#6. Dominik Hrbaty, 2.59, odds 38-1. The Slovak hard-hitter, 27, has risen nicely of late, having finished #14 in 2004 and done well in events heavily weighted here. (He reached the quarter-finals at U.S. 04, Australia 05, Miami 05, and Canada 05.) But he lost to Safin in an interesting show-down at Cincinnati, so that getting beyond the quarters at the Open seems unlikely.

#7. Marat Safin, 2.57, odds 39-1. Marat's magnificent performance in defeating Federer in Australia 05 brands him one of the few stars whose game can be strong enough to defeat Roger. But since Melbourne, Marat's successes have been few. He and Roger played on grass at Halle, where Roger won in split sets. Safin looked strong at Cincinnati until meeting a steady and artful Ginepri.

#8. Nicolay Davydenko, 2.35, odds 57-1. At age 24 and 5-11, this slender Russian player has quietly claimed a high place in the current ATP standings. Clay was his best surface in 2004 and Garros his best Slam so far in 2005. Relatively heavily weighted here are Nicolay's quarter-final finishes at Australia 05 and Cincinnati 05. Hewitt defeated him at Cincinnati by comfortable scores.

#9. Tim Henman, 2.31, odds 61-1. Tim's summer has been disappointing, and his attractive attacking style is probably doomed to early dismissal at the Open. He is vulnerable to net-rushers--I watched him lose to Moodie here in Washington in an attractive match--and also to rocketeers. (Hrbaty beat him in split sets at Montreal, 61 in the third.)


Within each section, players are listed in order of official seed. Raw scores from the prediction computation are given and in all cases are used here to predict the winner, highlighted.

--Federer 7.15, Stepanek 1.15, Ferrero 2.10, O. Rochus 2.06, Kiefer 2.08
--Davydenko 2.35, Nalbandian 2.23, Gonzalez 1.82, Moya 1.53
--Hewitt 3.69, Hrbaty 2.59, Ferrer 1.85, Dent 1.77
--Safin 2.57, Henman 2.31, Ancic 2.04, Mirnyi , K. Beck 1.47, Mathieu 1.86, Monfils 1.20
--Coria 2.26, Puerta 1.72, Novak 1.47, F. Lopez 1.46, Chela 1.34
--Roddick 3.52, Gasquet 1.48, Ljubicic 1.12, Haas 1.17
--Agassi 3.55, Gaudio 1.94, Youzhny 1.49, Berdych 1.46
--Nadal 4.40, T. Johansson 1.95, Rusedski 1.36, Robredo 1.98, Grosjean 1.73

Still using the raw scores for each prediction, the four quarter-finalist winners will be Federer, Hewitt, Roddick, and Nadal. Federer will then defeat Hewitt, and Nadal will defeat Roddick. Federer will then win what should be a classic final.


U.S. Open 04 -- Kuznetsova
Australia 05 -- Serena Williams
Garros 05 -- Henin-Hardenne
Wimbledon 05 -- Venus Williams

The ranks of the female superstar elites include the four current Slam champions, listed above, along with the four other players closest to atop the WTA standings. A good indicator for comparing the eight is the W-L record from their 32 matches of head-to-head play in 2005. The clear leader is Henin-Hardenne, at 6-2, with plurality in wins over losses of plus four. Serena Williams and Clijsters follow, each at plus two.

The eight elites have played a total of 245 other matches against players outside the group, compiling an 88.1% winning record in these affairs. We reach a helpful order of merit by comparing wins over the other elites against total losses against all comers. Here is the ranking, by plurality of elite wins minus total losses.

1. Henin-Hardenne, 6 - 3 = plus 3
2. Clijsters, 6 - 6 = zero
3. Davenport, 7 - 8 = minus 1
4. Sharapova, 4 - 8 = minus 4
4. Serena Williams, 3 - 7 = minus 4
6. Venus Williams, 4 - 9 = minus 5
7. Mauresmo, 1 - 10 = minus 9
8. Kuznetsova, 1 - 14 = minus 13

The high standing of the two Belgians, Henin and Clijsters, became firm when both of them reached the final of Rogers Cup, held recently in Toronto--the foremost preliminary to U.S. Open. Physical problems caused three of our elites to miss that event, and Serena Williams withdrew after one match. Kuznetsova departed early, losing her second match to unseeded Dulko. But our other three elite-group members--Clijsters, Henin-Hardenne, and Mauresmo--all reached the semi-finals, the first two without loss of a set. Henin then defeated Mauresmo in three sets, and on Sunday, August 21, Clijsters comfortably defeated Henin. Justine failed to provide her best tennis on that occasion, perhaps from tiredness after the difficult Saturday match against Mauresmo.

With some confidence, we rank the recent Toronto stalwarts on current form.

  1. Clijsters
  2. Henin-Hardenne
  3. Mauresmo
  4. Kuznetsova

The Toronto results accord well with our overall data. It seems safe to conclude that the two Belgians and Davenport make up the top echelon going into the Open. Clijsters's recent performance in defeating Henin at Toronto turns the odds in her favor, in my opinion, making her my prime choice. Sharapova and the Williams sisters appear somewhat behind the three leaders.

As always, a review of physical problems is needed. Of those principals who missed Toronto, Venus Williams and Davenport seem most likely to be closest to full strength. Venus has been sidelined recovering from flu-like symptoms since competing at Stanford in late July. Lindsay missed most of the summer with lower back strain but returned for the final tune-up at New Haven, succesfully winning her first match there. Sharapova went to the sidelines at Los Angeles in July with pectoral muscle strain and has not competed since, so her readiness is unproven. Finally, Serena's continuing knee and ankle troubles, which forced her withdrawal from Toronto, cast serious doubt as to her readiness to produce her best tennis. There is, too, uncertauty in the case of Henin, whose fade at Toronto recalled her slow recovery from last year's illness.

What of the candidates just below the elites? Patty Schnyder has three wins over elite group members, and several other players including Molik and Daniilidou show two. Many others are of nearly equal ability, so that almost surely a few members of our elite group will be defeated by outsiders. But the odds are strong that certainly one and probably two of our elites will become the finalists for 2005.


In each section of the draw here, players are listed in order of official seed. My choices are named.

--Sharapova, Molik, Safina, Pennetta, Daniilidou. Maria seldom loses to non-elite players but has a difficult first-rounder against Daniilidou, who has lost twice to Maria but took a set in their last meeting. Eleni has been out since spraining ankle in late July. Sharapova.
--Kuznetsova, Petrova, Farina Elia, Vaidisova. Kuznetsova is 2-0 against Petrova, 4-1 in sets. But Kuznetsova has been slipping, Petrova rising. Nadia withdrew in Toronto, returned at New Haven. Petrova.
--Clijsters, Bovina, Ivanovic, Sugiyama. No problem here for Kim. Clijsters.
--S. Williams, V. Williams, Hantucova, Schiavone. Wimbledon champion Venus is probably readier than Serena to play at her best. Venus.
--Henin-Hardenne, Pierce, Jankovic, Dulko, Srebotnik. Is Justine at full strength? If nearly so, she should win here. In head-to-heads against Pierce, she has won every time in straights. Pierce exited Toronto with thigh problem. Henin.
--Mauresmo, Myskina, Likhovsteva, Groenefeld, Shaughnessy. Groenefeld at 20 is rising, but is not yet in Amelie's class. Mauresmo.
--Dementieva, Schnyder, Asagoe, Chakvetadze, C. Martinez. Schnyder and Dementieva have played three split-setters in 2005, Dementieva winning twice. But Schnyder's recent form places her ahead. Schnyder.
--Davenport, Dechy, Golovin, Medina Garrigues, Sprem. Closest to a sure thing here. Davenport.

In the quarters, Sharapova over Petrova, could be close. Clijsters over Venus--Kim won last month in California. Henin over Mauresmo. Davenport over Schnyder.

In the semis, Clijsters over Sharapova off this summer's performance. Davenport over Henin in almost a toss-up.

Finally, A wonderful match-up of the currently strongest warriors on tour. Kim defeated Lindsay six straight times before Lindsay won at both Garros and Wimbledon 05 by close scores. Kim's return from long wrist troubles should finally mature into her first Slam victory here. Clijsters.


Tallies of match wins by nation have unfolded in interesting ways of late. Among the males, Spain narrowly edged out Argentina at Garros 05, where the verdict depended on final-day play. At Wimbledon the U.S. contingent prevailed but, surprisingly, second-best was Czech Republic, showing good strength in doubles. At Montreal, Spain with tournament winner Nadal outscored second-place France. The U.S. stood uncharacteristically low, Roddick going out early and the Bryans losing in the semis. The Americans then prevailed at Cincinnati when Ginepri picked up for the absence of Agassi. Russia, with three stars reaching the singles quarters (Safin, Davydenko, and Youzhny), was second. Nadal's first-round loss spoiled Spain's chances. Last year at U.S. Open, Spain's males finished second to the Americans. The addition of Nadal should substantially boost the Spanish total over last year's, but American depth should still prevail. For that to happen, two of the following three eventualities are needed-- (1) Agassi must be healthy, (2) the Bryans must resume winning, (3) Ginepri or another lower-ranked player must score well. Among the women, the Russians with Sharapova have captured the match-win tallies at most events of the last twelve months. The Russkayas prevailed at U.S. Open last year and at all three Slams since. The Americans were second in these Slams except at Garros 05, where the French were second. Russia also led at the recent Tier One in Toronto, narrowly ahead of second-place France.

Neither the Russian nor the U.S. women seem to have gained significant new strength since last year, so that a repeat at the Open for the generally younger Russians seems likely. In order to outscore France for second, the Americans will need help from players who missed Toronto.

It seems to me that tournament promoters and their staffs are missing out by not keeping the match-win count by nation as their event unfolds. In the scheme used here, every match counts the same, whether singles, doubles, or mixed. (In doubles and mixed each winning partner earns one-half point for his/her tennis nation.) Each player's tennis nationality is taken from ATP and WTA materials, presumably reflecting the player's preference.

In my opinion, the tally ought to stir fan as well as general public interest. People like to follow and speculate about Davis and Fed Cup possibilities, and a nation's prospects for the match-win count could tap the same intrigue. Something could be made of presenting a trophy to a diplomat from the winning nation at tournament's end. The outcome heavily depends on results during a tournament's first few days, so that the scheme's acceptance should bolster interest and attendance when they are most needed.

Best wishes to readers for a wonderful Open.



The weighting percentages are from past calculations measuring how well various tournaments predicted the actual outcomes at the last five U.S. Opens. They are used here in predicting the men's outcomes at U.S. Open 2005.

Preceding four Slams:
U.S. Open 04, 13.45%
Australian Open 05, 12.85%
Garros 05, 4.38%
Wimbledon 05, 10.41%

Preceding seven Masters Series:
Indian Wells 05, Miami 05, each 11.43%
Monte Carlo 05, Italian 05, German 05, each 4.28%
Canada 05, Cincinnati 05, each 11.60%

Green DotGreen DotGreen Dot

Between The Lines Archives:
1995 - May 1998 | August 1998 - 2003 | 2004 - 2015

If you have not already signed up to receive our free e-mail newsletter Tennis Server INTERACTIVE, you can sign up here. You will receive notification each month of changes at the Tennis Server and news of new columns posted on our site.

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.

Questions and comments about these columns can be directed to Ray by using this form.


Web tennisserver.com
nodot nodot
The Tennis Server
Ticket Exchange

Your Source for tickets to professional tennis & golf events.
Australian Open Tickets
Dallas Open Tickets
Delray Beach Open Tickets
ATX Open Tickets
Mexican Open Tickets
BNP Paribas Open Tickets
Miami Open Tickets
Credit One Charleston Open Tickets
US Men's Clay Court Championships Tickets
Wimbledon Tickets
Citi Open Tennis Tournament Tickets
Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic Tickets
National Bank Open Womens Tennis Canada Tickets
Odlum Brown Van Open r Tickets
Tennis In The Land Tickets
US Open Tennis Championship Tickets
Laver Cup Vancouver Tickets


Popular Tennis books:
Winning Ugly: Mental Warfare in Tennis-Lessons from a Master by Brad Gilbert, Steve Jamison
The Best Tennis of Your Life: 50 Mental Strategies for Fearless Performance by Jeff Greenwald
The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey
Most Recent Articles:
October 2022 Tennis Anyone: Patterns in Doubles by John Mills.
September 2022 Tennis Anyone: Short Court by John Mills.




"Tennis Server" is a registered trademark and "Tennis Server INTERACTIVE" is a trademark of Tennis Server. All original material and graphics on the Tennis Server are copyrighted 1994 - by Tennis Server and its sponsors and contributors. Please do not reproduce without permission.

The Tennis Server receives a commission on all items sold through links to Amazon.com.


Tennis Server
Cliff Kurtzman
791 Price Street #144
Pismo Beach, CA 93449
Phone: (281) 480-6300
Online Contact Form
How to support Tennis Server as a Sponsor/Advertiser
Tennis Server Privacy Policy