Sunday, September 20, 2015

Baughman Claims Third Title in Claremont

CLAREMONT, Calif. -- 19-year old American Deiton Baughman won his second ITF Futures titles on American soil and third title this year with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory over fellow American Mackenzie McDonald on Sunday morning at the Claremont Tennis Club

With the win, Baughman is now 33-16 in futures events this year, collecting 106 ranking points so far in 2015, which almost guarantees a year-end spot in the top 400 in the world. McDonald was playing in his first career final of a professional event and will move up nearly 100 spots in the rankings from his current ranking of 816.

Baughman dropped a set for the first time in the tournament as McDonald broke in the opening game and added an insurance break later for a 5-1 lead. Baughman forced the UCLA No. 1 to serve out the opening set and he did for the early advantage.
Early breaks determined the next two sets as well as Baughman broke McDonald and took a 3-0 lead in response to dropping his first set of the tournament. However, McDonald got the break back to make the score 6-2, 3-4, but the 20-year old American gave it right back and Baughman held the next game to even the final.
McDonald double faulted on his first two points in the third set, which proved costly as Baughman took advantage with a return winner on break point for a lead that never went away. The native of Carson, Calif. held serve four consecutive times and then broke serve again to claim the title.
McDonald will next play in the futures event in Costa Mesa, Calif. Baughman meanwhile is not currently in the acceptance lists for the other two futures events in California in September. Former UCLA No. 1 Dennis Novikov also was in an all-American final today, where he defeated Ryan Harrison in Cary for his first career ATP Challenger title.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

American Young Guns Set to Clash in Claremont Final

Americans Mackenzie McDonald and Deiton Baughman will go head-to-head for the first time in a professional match in just over two years, when on Sept. 17, 2013, Baughman defeated McDonald 7-6(3), 6-0 in Costa Mesa, Calif. However, since then, their careers have gone in two very different paths.

Both players at the time had just received their first ATP ranking points in the previous months and were among the more promising talents in American tennis. Mackenzie McDonald had just accepted a scholarship to go play tennis at UCLA in the upcoming spring season, putting off his professional aspirations.

Baughman on the other hand had received a scholarship offer from rival USC. The native of Carson, Calif. graduated high school in the spring of 2014 and went the opposite route of his opponent on Sunday. He decided to play a full professional schedule.

McDonald's match against Baughman two years ago was the last main draw professional match he played for the next nine months. During that hiatus, McDonald played No. 3 singles as a freshman for UCLA and earned an 18-4 record in dual matches.

Meanwhile, Baughman got his hands dirty, playing futures events week after week slowly boosting his ranking nearly 1000 spots to be on the brink of the top 1000 by the summer of 2014. Baughman went south of the border to play a futures event in Mexico and his quarterfinal victory there cut his ranking down to just three digits.

Earlier this year, McDonald returned to UCLA for a breakout sophomore season. As the team's No. 1 player, he went 15-1 in dual matches to earn the No. 3 ranking in the nation, while still playing professional events every couple of months, keeping his ranking inside the top 1000.

Baughman in the meantime has had a breakout 2015 season, justifying his decision to turn pro. He won his first futures event in January and then reached a final in Nigeria and won another title in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Baughman has also traveled to the Netherlands and Belgium this year, building his ranking to as high as 408 in the world.

The pair of Americans crossed paths again just a few weeks ago at the 2015 US Open. Baughman played his first career grand slam, receiving a doubles wildcard to play with Tommy Paul in the main draw. McDonald was there for the College Invitational where as the No. 2 seed he won the championship, earning a wildcard to the 2016 US Open qualifying draw.

Now after two years since they first played each other, the two will get to see how much their games have improved since both going in drastically different directions in their career. With this tournament Baughman will move into the top 400 in the world, and McDonald gets more valuable experience for when he commits to a full professional schedule.

All-American Final set in Claremont

CLAREMONT, Calif. -- Americans Deiton Baughman and Mackenzie McDonald both advanced to the final of the $10,000 Claremont Classic Futures with straight set victories Saturday morning at the Claremont Tennis Club.

Baughman, the tournament's only remaining seed, won the first semifinal, defeating German Sebastian Fanselow 6-3, 6-3. In the second semifinal, McDonald defeated 19-year old American Collin Altamirano, 6-2, 6-2.

Baughman clinched a spot in the top 400, becoming the 25th teenager ranked in the top 400 this week. The 19-year old turned down a scholarship to USC to turn professional and the decision has paid off as Baughman has a 32-16 record in main draws as a professional this year and this is now his fourth final.

The American No. 32 broke Fanselow twice in the first set to claim a 6-3 lead. Baughman continued to attack the Pepperdine graduate's second serve and got another break in the second set before serving out the straight sets victory.
The second semifinal pitted two Americans born in 1995 against each other. Both Altamirano and McDonald are coming off successful college seasons. McDonald was the No. 1 singles player for perennial power UCLA, and finished the year as the No. 3 player in the nation. Altamirano was the No. 50 player in the nation after helping Virginia win a national title as a freshman.

Altamirano already had two wins against Bruins, including a three-set win over former UCLA No. 1 Marcos Giron. Altamirano came back from down a set in their first round meeting, but the Cavalier couldn't repeat the accomplishment against McDonald.

McDonald is the much better mover of the two college standouts, and the difference was evident. The Bruin raced out to a 6-2 lead with a pair of breaks. McDonald shrunk his side of the court with his movement forcing Altamirano to go for more from the baseline, but the 19-year old was misfiring off both wings under the pressure.
McDonald broke again early in the second set for a 2-1 lead, but consolidating that break proved to be his biggest challenge of the match. Altamirano created three chances to break at 0-40, but McDonald fired two big serves and got a forehand error to get back to deuce. Altamirano created three more break points, but McDonald answered each time before three consecutive unreturned serves consolidated the beak for a 3-1 lead that he held onto for victory.
Baughman and McDonald will play the final on Sunday starting at 10:00 a.m. The winner will get 15 ranking points in the first of three consecutive futures events in southern California.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Three Americans go to Semifinals in Claremont

CLAREMONT, Calif. -- Five Americans born in 1995 or 1996 took the courts at the Claremont Tennis Club in USAF26 quarterfinals on Friday, and three of them advanced to the semifinals which will be played on Saturday.

No. 2 seed Deiton Baughman was the first to secure a spot in the semifinals with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Gonzales Austin less than a minute before Mackenzie McDonald joined him with a 6-2, 6-4 win over qualifier Tom Fawcett.

Collin Altamirano, who already took out No. 1 seed Marcos Giron, was the third American into the quarterfinals, crushing No. 5 seed Daniel Garza 6-2, 6-0. Pepperdine graduate Sebastian Fanselow prevented the semifinals from being four young Americans by upsetting the No. 4 seed Ernesto Escobedo with a 6-3, 7-5 victory, meaning Baughman is the only seed remaining in the draw.

Baughman has looked good despite a tough draw, not losing more than four games in any set. He will likely move into the top 400 in the world for the first time in his career on Monday regardless of his result on Saturday.

McDonald has also won six consecutive sets to reach the semifinal, including a 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 6 seed Evan Song. It hasn't been a good tournament for former UCLA No. 1 singles players with the elimination of Giron in the first round as well as Clay Thompson's first-round loss to Austin in straight sets. However, the current UCLA No. 1 is into his second futures semifinal this year after ending an impressive run by Fawcett.

Altamirano was the No. 3 singles player for National Champion Virginia Cavaliers in the spring, which he followed up by a trip to Italy during July and August. Now in his first tournament since returning from Italy, the benefits of his time in Virginia and Italy are evident in his wins over UCLA's Giron and Martin Redlicki, followed by a very convincing performance to beat Garza.

Escobedo did not have his best day in falling to Fanselow. Escobedo was playing just 10 minutes east of his home in West Covina, Calif., but to him the match was the "biggest choke of my life." Escobedo struggled to make first serves in the first set and was broken twice as a result. However, he broke to start the second set and started taking some speed off his first serve and started having a lot of success.

After Escobedo went ahead 4-2 in the second set, Fanselow turned the match around, breaking at love to even the match at 4-4. Then with Escobedo serving with new balls, Fanselow broke again to seal the match 6-3, 7-5.

Fanselow had won two futures events in Germany and reached a semifinal at a futures in California before entering the tournament, but the German had to navigate a difficult draw to reach his sixth career semifinal as a professional.

He defeated No. 8 seed Aleksandar Vukic in the first round and then had to go through fellow German Jan Meyer, who is the No. 1 singles player in NCAA Division II, playing for nearby Azusa Pacific. Meyer had won five consecutive matches to reach the second round and earn his second career ranking point. Fanselow got through Meyer in straight sets to set up his match with Escobedo.

On Saturday, Virginia No. 3 Altamirano will look to take out another UCLA representative as he takes on Bruin No. 1 McDonald. On the bottom half, Pepperdine graduate Fanselow will play No. 2 seed Deiton Baughman, who was recruited by USC, but decided to go play professionally. The first match will begin at 10 a.m. local time.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Greatest Tennis Seasons Ever

Novak Djokovic grabbed his third grand slam title of 2015 at the US Open and reached an 11th consecutive final, continuing what has been one of the greatest tennis season of all time. But how does it compare to the other great seasons in tennis history.

I limited this comparison to the last 26 years since that's when the Masters Series 1000 events became part of the tour. That way each season is more comparable and this won't just be a comparison of success at the majors.

Djokovic this year has gone 63-5 with seven titles for a total of 12,785 ranking points, which is enough to clinch the year-end No. 1 ranking. Meanwhile, Djokovic has faced one of the toughest schedules in tennis history, racking 21 wins over opponents ranked in the top 10, which is the most by any player through this point in a season in the era.

With four tournaments left to play, Djokovic is chasing two of the greatest seasons ever, including one that is his own. In 2011, Djokovic won three grand slams and had a 64-2 record at this point in the season. In 2006, Roger Federer started the year 56-4 and also wrapped up three grand slam titles.

However, there is a ranking system for a reason, and if we apply the ranking system, we can really start to compare players from different seasons.

Ranking points earned in a season through the US Open:
1. 2011 Novak Djokovic 13,070
2. 2015 Novak Djokovic 12,785
3. 2006 Roger Federer 12,605
4. 2008 Rafael Nadal 11,805
5. 2005 Roger Federer 11,480
6. 2007 Roger Federer 11,090
7. 2013 Rafael Nadal 11,010
8. 2010 Rafael Nadal 10,815
9. 2004 Roger Federer 10,460
10. 2012 Novak Djokovic 9910
11. 2009 Roger Federer 9840
12. 1994 Pete Sampras 9385
13. 1993 Pete Sampras 9120
14. 1995 Pete Sampras 8885
15. 1992 Jim Courier 8400
16. 2014 Novak Djokovic 8000
17. 1999 Andre Agassi 7725
18. 1990 Stefan Edberg 7645
19. 2003 Andy Roddick 7460
20. 1996 Pete Sampras 6840
21. 1997 Pete Sampras 6795
22. 1991 Stefan Edberg 6735
23. 2002 Lleyton Hewitt 5969
24. 2000 Gustavo Kuerten 5665
25. 1998 Pete Samrpas 5590
26. 2001 Lleyton Hewitt 5290

Federer went on to finish the 2006 season with 16,155 ranking points. Djokovic will need to be nearly perfect this fall to make this one of the greatest seasons of all time. There are 4000 more points up for grabs for Djokovic and he needs to take almost 3400 of them, leaving very little room to breathe.

Even if Djokovic does not catch Federer's 2006 season in terms of ranking points, he could have a better season in other regards. Federer finished the season with just 19 wins over top 10 opponents and Djokovic already has more than that. The Serb is chasing Nadal in that category, who had 24 in 2013.

In Nadal's 2008 season, he had the most wins up to this point with 75 to go along with nine losses. Federer went 71-3 up to this point in 2005 and Djokovic was 64-2 in 2011 after the US Open. The most titles following the final slam was 10, which Nadal (2013), Djokovic (2011), and Federer (2005) all achieved once.

We are truly in a golden era for tennis. The top 11 years in terms of ranking points all happened in the last 12 years. Also the top 10 years for top 10 wins up to this point all happened in the last 12 years as well, showing the consistency of the top 10 players to get to the later rounds of big events.

Also, there are four players right now that would be having year-end caliber years if their timing was better. Andy Murray's 2015 season would show up at 20th on the list above, Federer would place 23rd, and Wawrinka would place at 26th ahead of Hewitt's 2011 season.

Overall, Djokovic is having one of the greatest seasons ever at a time when the competition has never been tougher. Click here to see a comparison of the difficulty of Djokovic's opponents to previous seasons.

Djokovic Adds to List of Achievements

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic defeated world No. 2 Roger Federer in the final of the US Open 6-4, 5-7, 7-4, 6-4 to clinch his 10th grand slam title in his career and ninth in the last five years. The win adds another crown to an incredible season, but also does a lot of good for the Serb in a lot of other ways in regards to his career resume. Here's a look at the significance of the Djokovic title.

No. 1 Ranking

Djokovic clinched the year-end No. 1 ranking with his title in New York and is guaranteed to be the world No. 1 going into the next major as well, meaning for the next 18 weeks, Djokovic is guaranteed to retain the top ranking.

Weeks at No. 1
1. Roger Federer 301
2. Pete Sampras 286
3. Ivan Lendl 270
4. Jimmy Connors 268
5. John McEnroe 170
6. Novak Djokovic 164 (182)
7. Rafael Nadal 141

Ranking Points

Djokovic now has earned 16,145 ranking points in the 52-week rankings which is the most ever by any player since the rankings system began in 1973. Djokovic also has 12,785 ranking points in 2015 alone. His lead over world No. 2 Federer in the 52-week rankings has blossomed from 5,800 (which was already a record) to now 6,600. If you added the ranking points of Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Marin Cilic, you still wouldn't have as many ranking points as Djokovic.

Career Ranking Points

Djokovic has now earned 11,140 ranking points in his career at the US Open, making it his second most successful grand slam behind the Australian Open by just 140 points. The US Open is now the third major where Djokovic has earned over 10,000 ranking points, making the Serb and Federer the only players to do so at more than two events.

In the final, Djokovic surpassed Federer in average points earned per grand slam.

Average points per grand slam
1. Bjorn Borg 1148
2. Rafael Nadal 949
3. Novak Djokovic 904
4. Roger Federer 890
5. Rod Laver 851

In total points earned, Djokovic has parked himself within striking distance of a whole pack of players just barely ahead of him. In fact, Djokovic could potentially move all the way up to No. 2 by reaching the final at the Australian Open.

Career points earned at grand slams
1. Roger Federer 58,795
2. Rafael Nadal 40,835
3. Jimmy Connors 40,480
4. Pete Sampras 40,385
5. Ivan Lendl 39,890
6. Novak Djokovic 39,790
7. Andre Agassi 37,675

Nadal's lead on Djokovic is 1045, so if Nadal reaches the fourth round or better, Djokovic will have to win the title to pass the Spaniard. If Nadal reaches the final, he will prolong his stay at the No. 2 position, which he earned at Roland Garros this year.

Record against rivals

Djokovic had two wins over top 10 ranked opponents in his run to the title. He now is 21-4 against top 10 opponents in 2015 and 148-79 in his career. Those 148 wins are the second most in tennis history behind only Federer.

Against the Big Four, Djokovic has tied Nadal for the most wins within the four-way rivalry.

Wins against Big Four (overall record)
1. Novak Djokovic 61(61-53)
1. Rafael Nadal 61 (61-37)
3. Roger Federer 45 (45-55)
4. Andy Murray 20 (20-33)

Grand Slams

Ten grand slam titles now belong to Djokovic - five Australian Opens, three Wimbledons, and two US Opens. He joins, Federer, Nadal, Sampras, Lendl, and Stefan Edberg as the only players with multiple slams at three different majors.

Grand Slam titles (Open Era)
1. Roger Federer 17
2. Pete Sampras 14
2. Rafael Nadal 14
4. Bjorn Borg 11
5. Novak Djokovic 10

Before taking the title in New York, Djokovic also won Wimbledon, making it the third time that Djokovic had won consecutive grand slam titles in his career. In the majors this year, Djokovic went 27-1, which equals the best record by a player in majors since Rod Laver won the grand slam in 1969. Federer was the other player to go 27-1, doing so in 2006.

GOAT debate

Djokovic now holds many of his own records. The peak he has reached in 2015 is the highest peak ever reached by a player. He has won four of the first seven 1000 events played so far this year and reached the final of all six that he has played in, while winning three of the majors and all four major finals.

However, when it comes to career records, the 28-year old has some work to do still. Many of Djokovic's accomplishments have the side comment of "Federer is the only other player to ever do this." While, Djokovic may lead Federer in average points earned per major, Federer leads the Serb in almost every other category having to do with grand slams.

Other than Federer though, nobody else is putting up numbers that are out of reach, except perhaps the incredible mark by Borg of 1148 ranking points earned per major. On the GOAT rankings, Federer may be out of reach for Djokovic right now, but everybody else is at risk of dropping behind Djokovic in the coming years.

Ultimately, what we saw in the 2015 US Open final were two of the sports all-time greats if not the two all-time greatest fighting for the most important trophy left in the 2015 season. Only time will tell how far Djokovic can climb the GOAT list.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Nole Disposes of Defending Champion in 85 min.

 NEW YORK, U.S. -- No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic wrapped up a comprehensive semifinal victory over defending champion Marin Cilic, 6-0, 6-1, 6-2 in one of the most lopsided victories at the semifinals of a Grand Slam event in recent memory, Friday afternoon at the Billy Jean King Tennis Center.

The Serb won 14 of the first 15 games of the match for a convincing 6-0, 6-1, 2-0 lead before closing out the match in just 85 minutes to reach a fourth consecutive major semifinal. Djokovic is the first player since Roger Federer in 2009 to reach all four finals in a calendar year.

Djokovic has now reached his 18th career grand slam final and on Sunday will take on a Swiss player in his pursuit of his 10th career major title. Djokovic would join Federer, Rafael Nadal, Pete Sampras, and Bjorn Borg as the only players with double-digit men's singles titles at Grand Slam events.

When looking at some of the most lopsided major semifinal victories, Djokovic's win on Friday stands out among the best with Djokovic winning more than twice as many points as his opponent (83-39), giving him a dominance ratio* of 2.61.

At the  2006 Wimbledon semifinals, Federer needed just 77 minutes to dispatch Jonas Bjorkman, 6-2, 6-0, 6-2 with a dominance ration of 2.41 in the straight-set victory. Nadal also had a very lopsided win in the semifinals of his favorite Grand Slam, beating David Ferrer 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 in 106 minutes with a dominance ratio of 2.03.

Djokovic had a similar match against Ferrer, beating him 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 in 89 minutes with an incredible dominance ratio of 3.98 in the 2013 Australian Open semifinals, winning two-thirds of the point in the match.

There is no such thing as an easy semifinal opponent, but the way Djokovic eliminated the defending champion was one of the most statistically impressive wins at this stage of a major in recent memory.

*Dominance ratio is a stat from which is points won on return divided by points lost on serve.