Tag Archive | "Blake"

Murray Frustrates Blake In Queen’s Club Final

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Murray Frustrates Blake In Queen’s Club Final


img_1971From Paris’ red clay, the ATP moved onto London’s green grass this week. At the Aegon Championships final, Brit Andy Murray, the top seed and world number 3, conquered American James Blake 7-5, 6-4 to become the first British male since Henry Austin in 1938 to win at Queen’s club.

After each player held serve, Murray produced a break point with a backhand down the line winner. Then, when Blake’s forehand went off the court, Murray converted. However, with three successive forehand errors by Murray, Blake had double break point. The American crushed a forehand up the line winner for 2 all. A couple of times, Blake had small windows to take the lead. But, with errors, James’ chances fell by the waste side. After goading Blake into forehand errors in long rallies, Murray went on to secure a break for 6-5. Then, with a strong service game, the Brit captured the first set.

Subsequent to both players starting the second set well, serving at two all, Blake committed two forehand errors to go down 0-30. Yet, with a couple of good serves and by attacking the net, the American held for 3-2. After Murray protected service in a tricky game; leading 30-0, Blake made three backhand mistakes to gift the Brit a break point. Unable to handle a dipping return, Blake dumped another backhand volley into the net giving Murray a 4-3 edge. After easily consolidating and Blake holding, Murray closed out the championship with a love game.

By winning his first grass court title, Murray has thrown his name into the hat of challengers to Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for the Wimbledon trophy. Nadal, last year’s victor at Queen’s, was unable to compete due to ongoing knee issues and it’s uncertain whether the Spaniard will be healthy enough to defend his Wimbledon crown. Another contender, American Andy Roddick is also a question mark for Wimbledon. Roddick was forced to retire in the semifinals against Blake after rolling over his right ankle.

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2009 French Open Draw Released

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2009 French Open Draw Released


french_open_logoThis Monday, the most talented men and women in tennis will initiate the process of deciding who will walk away with the year’s second major. While Rafael Nadal is unequivocally the favorite on the men’s side, the women’s potential champion is much harder to predict.

Although Nadal going down to Roger Federer in Madrid added spice to the contest, the Spaniard remains the one with the target on his back. Fellow countrymen David Ferrer and Fernando Verdasco, possible fourth round and quarterfinal opponents respectively, could provide further intrigue to the plot. But, Nadal has had no trouble dealing with either man during his spectacular clay court run. The most anticipated semifinal match up could be Nadal versus Brit Andy Murray. Murray showed moments of brilliance in their semifinal meeting in Monte Carlo which he lost. Murray may need to go through Spaniard Albert Montanes, Chilean Fernando Gonzalez, pesky Czech Radek Stepanek or Marat Safin, a semifinalist in 2008. So Murray’s will have a mount to climb before getting to Nadal.

On paper, Federer should reach the quarterfinals without difficulties. However, lurking in Roger’s section are James Blake, Tomas Berdych and a couple Spaniards, any of them could serve as spoilers. In the quarters, Federer could face Andy Roddick. Yet, Roddick could have a rough time getting past his rivals since clay is not his best surface. Serb Novak Djokovic and Federer could meet in the semifinals. Having come back from a set and a break down to prevail their last two encounters, Novak will have confidence squarely in his corner. However, standing in Djokovic’s way in the preliminary rounds may be former French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero, top ten players Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro and Frenchman Jo-Wilfred Tsonga.

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USA Cleans Switzerland’s Clock In The First Round Of The Davis Cup


In Davis Cup play, Andy Roddick has been unflappable. Today, America’s ace in the hole hammered Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth rubber 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 to book his team’s place in the quarterfinals. Moreover, Roddick becomes second only to John McEnroe on the U.S. all-time Davis Cup winning list.

With Swiss cowbells ringing, Wawrinka won the first game with a forehand volley. Thereafter, things got sticky pretty fast for the Swiss. In two subsequent service games, Wawrinka went down love-30 and also faced a break point. Still, with a few unforced errors by Roddick, Wawrinka held serve. However, it was just a matter of time before Stanislas had to pay the piper. The debt came due in the seventh game. When Wawrinka missed a crosscourt backhand, Roddick got his second break point. Then, with a little luck, Roddick’s stroke skidded off the line, leading to a backhand error from Wawrinka and the break advantage. With his overpowering serve, Roddick grabbed the set.

The initial game of the second set was a replay of the first. Again, Wawrinka held serve for 1-0 with a forehand crosscourt volley winner. But, after Roddick cruised through his service game, Wawrinka was in dire straights afresh. With a backhand down the line winner and a volley error by his adversary, Andy had double break point. When Stanislas misconnected on an overhead, Roddick jumped ahead 2-1. The Swiss was irate, slamming his racket to the ground because he felt that the ball bounced twice on the American’s previous stroke. Except, there was no conclusive evidence that this was the case. In fact, Andy appeared to have trapped the ball. Thus, Wawrinka’s and the Swiss team’s protest fell on deaf ears. With Roddick able to neutralize Wawrinka’s masterful stroke, the backhand, and with the Swiss forced to sure up his least comfortable shot, the forehand; one break was enough for Roddick to capture the second set.

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Delray Beach International Tennis Championships Just Around The Corner

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Delray Beach International Tennis Championships Just Around The Corner


db_itc_logo_rgbThe 17th session of the Delray Beach Championships, an ATP 250 World Tour event, will take place from February 21 thru March 1, 2009 at the Delray Beach Stadium and Tennis Center.

The 32 person singles’ draw features Tommy Haas, the 2006 champion along with Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis, the 2006 Australian Open finalist. Other familiar names taking the court include Americans Mardy Fish, Robby Ginepri and the always charismatic, Vince Spadea.

Last year, 19-year-old Japanese wildcard, Kei Nishikori, stole the spotlight coming from nowhere to beat world number 12, James Blake. This year, talented 20-year-old Ernests Gulbis will be looking for the same result against more senior players such as Guillermo Canas and Jarkko Nieminen.

Accenting the doubles are Mike and Bob Bryan fresh off their seventh majors win in Australia and their reinstatement at number one. These two are looking to avenge their lost in the finals last year. A lethal combination, the Bryans, is one of the tournament’s biggest attractions.

The clock is ticking; the championships are just a couple of weeks away. For more details and to buy tickets, visit www.YellowTennisBall.com or call (561) 330-6000.   Here’s your chance to see the action first hand.  Don’t delay!

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Australian Open Heating Up


Along with the summer temperatures, the action on court is scorching at the first major of the year. Let’s review the key developments of the initial week and try to predict what could unfold the last days at the Australian Open.

The unexpected casualties in the preliminary rounds were Ana Ivanovic and Venus Williams, the fifth and sixth seeds, respectively. Venus was shocked in the second round by Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro after having the match on her racket.  Suarez Navarro, a quarterfinalist at last year’s French Open, is now in the round of 16. Ivanovic, the 2008 finalist, was eliminated in the third round by 19 year-old Russian Alisa Kleybanova.  This was not a great surprise.  Since winning the French Open, Ivanovic has yet to make it past the third round at a major. Agnieszka Radwaska, the ninth seed, fell in the first round, beaten by Kateryna Bondarenko. The biggest upset on the men’s section was David Nalbandian, the tenth seed, going down in the second round to Yen-Hsun Lu ranked 61.

As we enter the meat and potatoes part of the tournament, the top four men remain on track to collide in the semifinals. With the exception of Novak Djokovic, the defending champion, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray have looked extremely sharp. Of the two Americans left, Andy Roddick, the seventh seed, may represent the biggest headache pending on Djokovic’s side of the draw. Roddick’s recent weight lost and coaching change appear to be paying dividends. Andy has dispatched his opponents expeditiously, so an upset could be brewing. James Blake, the ninth seed, has played very well. However, Blake will meet last year’s finalist, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, in the round of 16. Vanquishing Tsonga may be too tall an assignment for the American. Nadal will face Fernando Gonzalez, the 2007 finalist. Gonzalez may not have much left in the tank after his high quality, over four hour long, five setter against Frenchman Richard Gasquet. Federer will battle Tomas Berdych. Should Roger advance, waiting will be either Juan Martin Del Potro or Marin Cilic, two tough customers. The French are assured of having at least one man in the quarterfinals with Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils playing one another next. With the leftover field competing so well, the odds maker may need to reshuffle their numbers. The favorite may have to be Nadal, Federer and Murray in that order.

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A New World Order:  The Year That Was 2008

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A New World Order: The Year That Was 2008


img_3045Fascinating is the word in a nutshell that perhaps best describes this past season. With 2009 looming, the time has come to reminisce as to why 2008 was such a quintessential year for the ATP.

The abundance of talent littering the tour foretold of a possible shake up as the year began, threatening Roger Federer’s supremacy. All dynasties have gone through a period of decline; perhaps, for Federer, 2008 will be viewed as such. In Australia, Federer faced two foes, mononucleosis and Serb Novak Djokovic. Unable to vanquish either, Roger succumbed in the semifinals. For Federer, this calendar had many ebbs and few flows with a spanking by Spaniard Rafael Nadal in the French final, a gut wrenching loss in the Wimbledon final in five sets, a much desired gold medal at the Olympics, but in doubles. Roger regained a bit of respect by capturing his fifth consecutive U.S. Open. But, for the first time since the dawning of the Federer era, Roger failed to grab a single masters’ shield. In 2008, not only did the Swiss have to get acclimated to the fact that Wimbledon was no longer his playpen, he also lost his grip on the number one ranking.

What a year for Nadal! Undoubtedly talent is an important part of success, yet hard work cannot be discounted. As the season started, the smart bet would have been on Djokovic yanking the top spot from Federer. Nevertheless, Roger’s clay nemesis, after more than two years of serving as best man, finally moved up to number one. After crushing defeats in the quarterfinals in Australia and finals at the Sony Ericsson, Nadal had a surreal clay run with one solitary loss. Moreover, Rafa won his fourth consecutive French Open and the crown jewel, his first Wimbledon trophy.  He was the first man in over twenty years with this dual combination. The ultimate feather in Rafa’s cap was getting Olympic singles gold. An arduous and lengthy schedule put the breaks to Nadal’s play with tendonitis stopping him from participating in the year-end tournament and the Davis cup finals. Regardless, Nadal could not have scripted this year any better.

In many respects, Djokovic had an up and down ride. After hoisting the Australian and Indian Wells trophies, the world number three had a reality check. Nadal unwilling to relinquish his hold on number two, schooled Djokovic when the two met in Rome and Paris. His confidence slightly dented, Novak was a non-factor mid-year with an early exit at Wimbledon. However, Djokovic finished strongly by winning the year-end tournament in Shanghai.

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Homecoming: Tsonga Lights Up Paris With A Victory


When defending champion Argentine David Nalbandian met Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the BNP Paribas Masters final, not only was a Waterford crystal at stake, but also the last slot at Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai. Moreover, Nalbandian was trying to become the first repeat titleholder in the event’s 23-year history. Urged on by his fellow Parisians, Tsonga defeated Nalbandian in a scintillating match 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.

A supercharged atmosphere became even more electric when Tsonga after winning his service game at love, crushed a forehand down the line for a winner to get a break point. Nalbandian then donated the game by tossing a double fault. Subsequently, the Frenchman consolidated the break with a bullet crosscourt forehand winner in another easy service game 3-0. From that point on, the Argentine steadied himself and maintained the deficit at one break. As Tsonga served at 4-2, a forehand unforced error gave Nalbandian his first shot at getting back on serve. However, with a crisp forehand volley, Tsonga deleted the break point and secured the game with a terrific backhand volley. Serving for the set at 5-3, with great serve placement, Tsonga was able to draw the errors from Nalbandian and take one step closer to winning his first Masters’ shield.

After leading 40-15 in the first game of the second set, Nalbandian lost his way when Tsonga made a volley and crosscourt forehand winners to get to deuce. Then, a few points later, David double faulted to give Jo-Wilfried a break point. But, the steely Argentine erased the Frenchman’s advantage with an ace and secured the game with a forehand volley 1-0. While Tsonga put on a serving clinic, Nalbandian, one of the game’s best returners, continued to pile on the return errors. The Frenchman produced back to back aces to close out his games at love for 2-2 and 3-3. However, ahead 4-3, Nalbandian’s opportunity to break came with Tsonga misfiring on two forehands and making a double fault. Nevertheless, with aces and finesse at net, Tsonga escaped triple break point and equalized the set at 4-4. After holding serve at 5-4, Nalbandian again worked his way to triple break point. This time, the Argentine converted with a forehand error from Tsonga and took the set.

Tsonga’s backhand had been ineffective the entire match with double digit errors and no winner. Nalbandian exploited that deficiency to hold serve at 1-0 in the decisive set. But, Tsonga returned the favor exposing Nalbandian’s weakness on the forehand side and with four consecutive errors converted a break point for a 2-1 advantage. From that point on, neither player was challenged on serve until the sixth game when Nalbandian got a break point courtesy of a backhand error which Jo-Wilfried then dismissed with his 24th ace. Serving for the championship, Tsonga appeared like he would crack again after making three consecutive errors to go down triple break point. Yet, Jo-Wilfried responded with three good first serves which led to a quality volley and a forehand down the line winner for deuce. Sparked on by the crowd, Tsonga produced his 25th ace for match point and with a forehand error from Nalbandian captured the trophy.

After being kept out of the French Open and Wimbledon by knee surgery, Tsonga made up for his absence this week by beating Novak Djokovic in the third round, Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals and James Blake in the semifinals. The Australian Open finalist culminated the season as he had begun, on a high note. Not only did Tsonga knock out countryman Gilles Simon from Shanghai, he jumped to number 7 in the rankings taking over the honor of top ranked Frenchman from Simon. Besides, Tsonga became only the third Frenchman to win this tournament, the last being Sebastien Grosjean in 2001.  Despite injury getting the better of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the quarterfinals, Nadal withdrew with a knee problem after being thumped in the first set by Nikolay Davydenko while Federer never took the court against Blake due to back spasm, fans were still rewarded with a high quality final.

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Wrap Up Of The Beijing Olympics 2008


Spaniard Rafael Nadal continues to have the Midas touch. Nadal defeated Chilean Fernando Gonzalez in the gold medal round in straights sets 6-3, 7-6, 6-3. Gonzalez went up one notch in the hardware department by winning silver adding to the bronze he collected in Athens in 2004. Moreover, this was the cherry on top of Nadal’s flan as he officially assumes the number one ranking on Monday.

In the semifinals, Gonzalez had a controversial match with American James Blake. The dispute arose when a backhand pass struck by Blake inadvertently clipped Gonzalez’ racket. Despite the ball being initially on its way out, by default, Blake should have been awarded the point. But since the play was unnoticed by the umpire and Gonzalez failed to own up to his mistake, the Chilean was given the point. In his defense, Gonzalez stated that he was unsure that the ball hit his racket. Perhaps, Blake would have brushed off the incident had he converted on one of his three match points to advance to the gold metal round. After losing, Blake accused Gonzalez of poor sportsmanship, considering the arena this vitriolic statement is further magnified. In the bronze metal match, Blake fell to Serbian Novak Djokovic 6-3, 7-6.

After going down to Blake in the quarterfinals, Roger Federer along with Swiss teammate Stanislas Wawrinka prevailed over top doubles seed Americans Mike and Bob Bryan in the semifinals. The Swiss went on to beat the Swedish team of Simon Aspelin and Thomas Johansson 6-3, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 in the gold metal round. The Americans settled for the bronze metal, winning over the French team of Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

It was an all-Russian sweep in the women’s singles. Elena Dementieva beat Dinara Safina in an enthralling three setter 3-6, 7-5, 6-3. In the second set, after making up a 1-4 deficit, Safina had momentum on her side and the opportunity to take the lead at 5-5, but she failed to convert on break point. In a game Dinara was leading 40-15 Dementieva eventually broke. From then on, fatigue became a major factor for Safina. The bronze metal went to Vera Zvonareva who handled China’s Na Li 6-0, 7-5.

After being dismissed in the singles quarterfinal, Serena and Venus Williams squashed the Spanish team of Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginie Ruano Pascual 6-2, 6-0 to win doubles gold, the second for team Williams. In the consolation bronze metal match, Chinese Zi Yan and Jie Zheng beat Ukrainian sisters Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko 6-2, 6-2.

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Spotlight On Beijing 2008: Going for Tennis Gold


After the pageantry of the opening ceremonies on Friday which was highlighted by tennis stars Roger Federer and Chilean Fernando Gonzalez carrying the flag for their countries, today marked the initial session of full competition. But the headline turned out to be the weather as most of the matches were rained out.

American James Blake seeded 8th defeated Australian Chris Guiccione 6-3. 7-6; while Russian Nikolay Davydenko took care of Latvian contender Ernests Gulbis 6-4, 6-2. Fernando Gonzalez, Czech Tomas Berdych and Argentine Guillermo Canas also marched on to the next round.

The women’s draw was handed a major disappointment as French Open champion and top seed Ana Ivanovic of Serbia withdrew due to a thumb injury. Ivanovic has been battling with this issue since Wimbledon. Despite stating that she will be in New York, Ivanovic’s participation at the U.S. Open is up in the air. Italian Francesca Schiavone and Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki had no trouble dismissing their opponents. Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova also advanced.

On day two, Federer taking on Russian Dmitry Tursunov is perhaps the most interesting match up. Other key players on tap include Rafael Nadal, Serena and Venus Williams, Serbian Novak Djokovic and the hottest female on tour Russian Dinara Safina. Since the surface in Beijing is a hardcourt, it should present a good challenge for these competitors as they prepare for the U.S. Open.

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Quiet Simon Prevails In Indianapolis


The French and Russian red, white and blue stripes were flying high in Indy as France’s Gilles Simon and Russia’s Dmitry Tursunov met in the finals at the Indianapolis Tennis Championships. Although ranked 25th in the world and seeded second at this tournament, Simon’s career has flown under the radar compared to countrymen Richard Gasquet or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. By beating the defending champion Tursunov in straight sets 6-4, 6-4, perhaps Simon will make tennis fans take notice on this continent.

The finals can best be summed up as Simon being opportunistic with his break point chances while Tursunov allowed the myriad of break point opportunities he had fall to the waste side. On a few occasions, Simon had his back against the wall, down triple or double break point; yet, he came up with the goods to hold his serve. Despite the Russian’s noticeable advantage with a powerful serve and blazing groundstrokes, it was the Frenchman with the beguiling frame who came out on top in most of the long rallies in a match primarily played from the baseline. Simon needed just one break in each set to prevail.

Despite this event being loaded with Americans, their progress was stopped at the semifinals with James Blake, the top seed, falling to Tursunov and Sam Querrey eliminated by Simon, with the Frenchmen saving 16 break points. The big test for Simon will come this week at the Rogers Cup where he will face Roger Federer in the second round should he win his opening match. With Federer returning to the circuit after his heartbreaking lost to Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon, this will be a test for both players.

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