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Murray, Federer in cruise control at Sony Open

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Murray, Federer in cruise control at Sony Open


IMG_6856_Murray

Miami Ricky Dimon
With former coach Ivan Lendl sitting in his player box, Andy Murray showed signs of the Murray who won the U.S. Open and Wimbledon under Lendl. Murray crushed Feliciano Lopez 6-4, 6-1 in the third round of the Sony Open Tennis tournament on Sunday afternoon.

The defending champion, who is coming off back surgery and recently lost in the Indian Wells fourth round, has been dominant since dropping his first set of this Miami event to Matthew Ebden. Murray has now yielded a mere six games in his last four sets. He converted five of six break-point opportunities against Lopez, who served at a horrendous 43 percent.

“I moved well [and] returned well,” said Murray. “It’s not always that easy to feel comfortable against him because there is not [a lot] of rhythm with the way he plays.”

The No. 6 seed is joined in the last 16 by Roger Federer, who stormed past Thiemo de Bakker 6-3, 6-3 in just one hour and three minutes. Federer surrendered only seven service points in the entire match. He lost just three points on serve against Ivo Karlovic in the second round.

Sunday’s opening match on the Grandstand featured a far more competitive affair. Neither man was at his best, but the result was an entertaining, back-and-forth battle between Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Marcos Baghdatis. Tsonga prevailed 4-6, 7-6(6), 7-5 in two hours and 30 minutes.

To say the Frenchman took a circuitous route to victory would be an understatement. He trailed by a set and by 5-1 in the second-set tiebreaker. Baghdatis was two points from the match on six different occasions but could not cross the finish line. Tsonga won five straight points for 6-5, double-faulted on set point, but then won it on a Baghdatis double-fault at 6-7.

Tsonga saved all five of the break points he faced in set three before breaking serve for the very first time in Baghdats’ final service game at 5-5. It finally ended in the 12th game of the decider on Tsonga’s 16th ace.

Murray and Tsonga will face each other in the fourth round, while Federer is going up against Richard Gasquet.

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Federer, Djokovic, Murray off to winning start at Sony Open

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Federer, Djokovic, Murray off to winning start at Sony Open



IMG_6389_FedererMiami, FL Ricky Dimon
After skipping last year’s Sony Open Tennis tournament, Roger Federer kicked off his 2014 campaign on Friday afternoon with a 6-4, 7-6(4) victory over Ivo Karlovic. Federer lost a mere three points on serve in the entire match and he fired six aces to Karlovic’s 13 to advance in one hour and 14 minutes.

The 32-year-old Swiss dropped just one service point in the first set and one in the second prior to a tiebreaker. An error off the net cord, however, gave back a mini-break to Karlovic in surprising fashion. One more mini-break was all Federer would need, as he took care of his final two service points at 5-4 and 6-4.

“I think I was able to play a very clean match on my service games throughout,” the world No. 5 explained. “I was playing with margin, was able to move Ivo around, and I was able to maintain that throughout the match, which was key.”

Next up for Federer is qualifier Thiemo De Bakker, who upset Fernando Verdasco 7-6(4), 6-7(3), 6-2.

Novak Djokovic joined Federer in the third round following a 6-4, 6-3 defeat of Jeremy Chardy. The Frenchman’s hopes were doomed by 51 percent serving and a failure to save any of the three break points he faced. Chardy also suffered a sprained ankle in the final game of the match when Djokovic served out his win at 5-3 in the second set.

“It’s obviously different conditions that I’m playing here in Miami from Indian Wells,” said the No. 2 seed, who is coming off a title at the BNP Paribas Open. “It’s more humid and it takes a little bit of time to get used to. So that’s why the first matches are always tricky. And especially when you have an opponent who goes for his shots as Jeremy did today.”

Andy Murray capped off the night on Stadium court by waking up from a slow start to storm past Matthew Ebden 3-6, 6-0, 6-1. Murray, who recently made a news-worthy split from coach Ivan Lendl, won all six of his return games spanning the second and third sets. The sixth-ranked Scot dropped serve to trail 1-0 in the third before reeling of a second streak of six consecutive games in his favor.

Ricky Dimon is a contributor in Miami and writes for tenngrand.com. You can follow him on Twitter under @RD_Tennistalk by clicking here.

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Berdych and Roddick Lead a Stupendous Field at Legg Mason Classic

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Berdych and Roddick Lead a Stupendous Field at Legg Mason Classic


The Olympus U.S. Open series is on its D.C. stop this week.  Although Juan Martin Del Potro, the reigning U.S. Open and two time defending Legg Mason Classic champion, is sidelined by injury this year, numerous big names have made the trip to the nation’s capital to contest this coveted trophy.

This year’s superstar lineup is topped by Tomas Berdych, the new world number eight and 2010 Wimbledon finalist.  Berdych is making his third appearance in Washington, but his first as the number one seed.  The Czech will be aiming to improving on his semifinal result from 2005.

On the opposite side of the draw is perennial favorite Andy Roddick, the second seed.  Roddick, a three time champion and finalist in 2009, is hoping to rebound from a curtailed Wimbledon campaign.  Being on grounds which brought him tremendous success previously could be the remedy for the American’s blues.

Fernando Verdasco, the world number 10 and 2009 Australian Open semifinalist, is the third seed.  It’s Verdasco’s  maiden showing at the tournament.  With three titles already this year, Verdasco will be a certain threat.  Returning for the second straight year is Marin Cilic who is positioned as the fourth seed and a potential semifinal rival for Roddick.

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Week One at Wimbledon: Federer and Nadal with a pulse, barely! Murray and Soderling Looking Strong

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Week One at Wimbledon: Federer and Nadal with a pulse, barely! Murray and Soderling Looking Strong


As customary, the middle Sunday at Wimbledon serves as a no play holiday which is a welcomed respite.  No words can fully underscore the uniqueness of the events that transpire this week.  From a seemingly never ending first round match, to the champions of the last two years limping their way into the last 16, to the Queen making a rare appearance, to a scandal involving Victor Hanescu.  Here’s a homage to the initial six days and a take on what’s ahead.

The French are known for their flare and Nicolas Mahut is undoubtedly part of the establishment.  In the second round of qualifying, Mahut outlasted his opponent 24-22 in the third set to advance.  Then, Mahut went five sets to make it into the main draw. In the first round of the main draw, Mahut faced John Isner. On Tuesday, the match was interrupted due to darkness after the two split four sets.  When the players returned on Wednesday, the night ended with a 59-59 draw in the fifth. Even the scoreboard was exhausted, crashing when the score got to 40+.  On Thursday, the match concluded when Isner hit two consecutive winners to break Mahut and grab a 70-68 victory.

The encounter which lasted 11 hours and 5 minutes, shattered all previous records and redefined the meaning of marathon match. The fifth set alone spanned 8 hours and 11 minutes.  However, despite a full day’s rest, Isner could not recuperate.  The next round, Thiemo De Bakker, who won his prior round 16-14, dismissed a depleted Isner in just 1hour 14 minutes.  For Isner, the physical consequences may reverberate for months.

While defending champion Roger Federer did not go to such extremes, it was a struggle to survive nevertheless.  Federer was nearly a spectator as 60th ranked Alejandro Falla forced Federer to climb out of a two sets to love deficit, even serving for the match.  With a bit of “luck” as Federer put it, he moved on.  The Swiss’ second round was also tough as qualifier Ilijac Bozoljac prevailed in the second set tiebreaker. Federer carried the match by capturing the fourth set tiebreaker.  The third round, Federer played close to flawlessly against Arnaud Clement.

Rafael Nadal also willed himself to advance.  After a routine initial round, Nadal required five sets the second and third round against Robin Haase and Philipp Petzschener respectively.  More importantly, Nadal had a flare up of his niggling knee problem and was treated for elbow issue.

Following a five setter with Oliver Rochus, Novak Djokovic thumped his next opponents Taylor Dent and Albert Montanes in the subsequent rounds.  British hopeful Andy Murray has been efficient, booting his counterparts in straight sets.  Even the Queen’s first appearance at Wimbledon since 1977 did not distract her subject as Murray dispatched Jarkko Nieminen in the second round.

After an uncomplicated primary round, Andy Roddick was rattled a bit by Michael Llodra and Philipp Kohlschreiber the next rounds, pushed to four sets by each.  Roddick has friendly company into the second week as Sam Querrey secured a fourth round berth after a five set tussle with Xavier Malisse.

Unsurprisingly, his second tournament back from injury, Nikolay Davydenko fell in the second round.  Shocking though was Fernando Verdasco, the 8th seed, Marin Cilic, the 11th seed, Marcos Baghdatis, the 24th seed, and Stanislas Wawrinka, the 20th seed, all exiting their first day out.

Robin Soderling, the 6th seed, has been on cue this week.  The Swede has sailed through his matches, duration under two hours.  His first event since his back injury, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s performance has been mixed.  In the second round, Tsonga went five sets after having a two sets to none lead against Alexandr Dolgopolov.  Yet, the following round, Tsonga cruised against qualifier Tobias Kamke.

This tournament has seen a revival of the French veterans.  Paul-Henri Mathieu knocked out 13th seed Mikhail Youzhny and De Bakker in the second and third round respectively to earn a spot in the final 16 at a major for the first time since 2008.  Also, Julien Benneteau is into the second week after surviving two five set matches.

Conversely, Gael Monfils had his fortnight cut short by Lleyton Hewitt in the third round.  Monfils was no match for Hewitt who recently beat Federer in Halle. The Aussie is grooving on grass despite two hip surgeries.

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Preview of the Men’s French Open Draw 2010

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Preview of the Men’s French Open Draw 2010


On Sunday, the 2010 French Open gets underway.  Before the first ball is struck at Roland Garros, here’s a taste of how the proceedings may unravel on the gentlemen’s side.

Since 2006, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer had made it a habit of contesting for the trophy on the final Sunday. Last year, Robin Soderling interrupted that cycle by ousting Nadal in the fourth round.  After descending a wee bit in the rankings, with a record three Masters clay court titles, Nadal returned to his familiar spot at number two this week.  Therefore, this sets up the possibility of a final featuring defending champion Federer and his old nemesis Nadal.

By far, Nadal has been the best clay court player this season.  As such, it’s almost a given penciling his name as a finalist.  In examining the draw, Nadal, the top seed in the bottom section, appears to have a green line through the round of 16.  In the quarterfinals, the Spaniard could see slight resistance from fellow countrymen Fernando Versdasco and Nicolas Almagro.  The latter in particular competed well against Nadal in Madrid.  Still, Nadal should pull through.

Also in the bottom half are Andy Roddick and Novak Djokovic, potential semifinal adversaries for Nadal.  Last year, Roddick had a career best showing in Paris by reaching the round of 16.  In the first round, Roddick takes on veteran Jarkko Nieminen, then, a possible third round match with Juan Monaco.  Hence, the American may say his goodbyes to Paris early. Assuming Roddick advances to the quarters, he could face the second best performer on clay this year, David Ferrer.  Considering that Roddick has not competed since the Sony Ericsson Open and with clay being his least successful surface, it hard to imagine Roddick progressing to the second week.

Despite a clay title and two other finals, Djokovic went down in the third round in 2009.  This year, Djokovic withdrew early in Serbia and his best result was the semifinals in Monte-Carlo. Consequently, for Djokovic, resting may be a blessing.  On the other hand, it could be a curse, not allowing the Serb to be clay fit.  With former French Open winner Juan Carlos Ferrero potentially as a third round opponent and Ferrer in the quarterfinals, the third seed could have his hands full before getting a crack at Nadal.

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Kuznetsova Bends But Doesn’t Break, Venus Moves On in Miami

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Kuznetsova Bends But Doesn’t Break, Venus Moves On in Miami


In the second round at the Sony Ericsson Open, Svetlana Kuznetsova was pushed to three sets by China’s Shuai Peng.  But, Kuznetsova, the top seed, averted an upset with a 6-2,3-6,6-4 win.

After dominating in the opening set, Kuznetsova was broken early in the second.  Despite numerous chances to get back on serve, Kuznetsova’s failed to capitalize because of an inconsistent forehand.  In the decisive third set, Kuznetsova obtained the early edge for a 3-1 lead.  However, with a strong forehand stroke causing the error by Kuznetsova then a superb return, Peng erased the break deficit.  Later on in the set, Kuznetsova captured the crucial break allowing her to seal the victory.

Subsequent to the match, MiamiTennisNews asked:
Q.  Seems like your forehand has been off lately.  What’s going on there?
Kuznetsova:  Actually, it’s good.  But just getting a little bit–I’m frustrated  because I’m not making, but I feel it good.

Q.  Do you fell more pressure after winning the French.  Are you putting more pressure on yourself?
Kuznetsova:  I don’t put pressure.  I just get disappointed when I’m not playing good enough.  That’s it.

Peng’s compatriot, Li Na, 2010 Australian semifinalist and 8th seed, was equally unlucky as Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky after multiple opportunities to win in straight sets, prevailed in a third set tiebreaker 6-4,4-6,7-6.  In other matches, Marion Bartoli, the 11th seed, had no problem with Magdalena Rybarikova 6-2,6-4 .  After losing the first set, Sabine Lisicki retired due to injury against Yaroslava Shvedova.

Andrea Petkovic bested 10th seed Flavia Pennetta 6-3,3-6,6-0 .  Although her serve is still problematic, Ana Ivanovic came through in her match against Pauline Parmentier 6-4,6-3.  After a tricky initial set, 6th seed Agnieszka Radwanska cruised in the second set for a 7-5,6-0 victory over Ekaterina Makarova.  Surprisingly, Agnes Szavay squashed Alicia Molik 6-0, 6-0.

Once more this year, Gisela Dulko ousted a seeded player, this time she victimized Alona Bondarenko 7-5,6-2.  Up and coming Frenchwoman Aravane Rezai had her tournament cut short as the 18th seed went down to 19 year old wildcard Petra Martic.  30th seed Anabel Medina Garrigues and 31st seed Aleksandra Wozniak fell to Roberta Vinci and Polona Hercog respectively. Yanina Wickmayer, Nadia Petrova, Daniela Hantuchova, and Roberta Vinci are through to the third round.

In the night session, meeting for the first time, Venus Williams battled Sorana Cirstea.  Down love-40, Venus double faulted at 2 all to give Cirstea the break.  Serving at 4-3, Cirstea netted a backhand hand digging herself a triple break point hole.  Venus converted when Cirstea committed another backhand mistake.  Then, Williams broke a second time at love to carry the first set.

Again in the second set, Cirstea drew first blood.  With a blazing return, Cirstea set up triple break point and capitalized by forcing Venus to push her forehand long.  However, the next game, Venus leveled the set at 2 a piece.  Later, after erasing break point, Williams obtained a third break point with a backhand miscue by Cirstea.  Venus secured the break for 5-3 when Sorana dumped a forehand into the net.  With an easy hold, Venus closed out the match 6-4, 6-3.

Yesterday, the ATP first round matches were also completed with lucky loser Nicolas Lapentti reaching the second round joined by Juan Ignacio Chela, Dudi Sela, Thiemo De Bakker, Michael Berrer, Philipp Petzschner and Kevin Anderson.  Mardy Fish was the only male American to advance yesterday as Ryan Sweeting, Rajeev Ram were both eliminated.

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Federer and Tsonga Aid In Preserving Their Countries’ World Group Standing For 2010

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Federer and Tsonga Aid In Preserving Their Countries’ World Group Standing For 2010


img_0942This weekend, the world group playoffs sorted out which eight nations would be eligible to compete against the seeded teams for the coveted Davis cup in 2010.  Team Switzerland, headed by world number one Roger Federer, defeated Italy while France’s workhorse turned out to be Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Battling the Netherlands, Tsonga was instrumental in three out of four victories.

Besides Federer, the Swiss had top 30 singles player Stanislas Wawrinka to rely on.  As a packed Italian house looked on Friday, Wawrinka defeated Andreas Seppi 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 in the initial rubber.  Later, Federer took care of Simone Bolelli 6-3, 6-4, 6-1.  With its top singles players sitting out the doubles Saturday, Switzerland had its lead narrowed by Italy’s win.  However on Sunday, unfazed by a rain delay, Federer beat Potito Starace 6-3, 6-0, 6-4 to secure his country’s crack at the cup next year.

In the Netherlands, after countryman Gael Monfils lost the opening match against Thiemo De Bakker; Tsonga  prevailed 7-6, 6-2, 7-6 over Jesse Huta Galung to level the contest. Then, Saturday, Tsonga joined forces with Michael Llodra to eclipse team Netherlands 6-3, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4.  Sunday, Tsonga avenged Monfils’ failure with a 7-6, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 win over De Bakker.  Although that victory was enough to seal France’s spot in the world group, Jeremy Chardy capped the day by carrying the last rubber.

Serbia playing at home against Uzbekistan had more than enough fire power despite the absence of Novak Djokovic.  With only one singles player in the top 100, Uzbekistan tried its best, but had no answer to the combo of Viktor Troicki, Janko Tipsarevic, Nenad Zimonjic and Ilia Bozoljac. Serbia won all five matches.

On Friday, India taking on South Africa in the latter’s backyard build a 2-0 lead courtesy of victories by Smoved Devvarman and Rohan Bopanna. Subsequently, Saturday, Jeff Coetzee and Wesley Moodie got South Africa on the board by carrying the doubles.  Yet, Sunday, after Rik De Voest went ahead two sets to zero, Devvarman stormed back taking the next three sets to maintain India’s world group status.

After Andreas Vinciguerra down 6-7, 6-7 had to retire against Romanian Victor Hanescu, the Swedish crowd was uplifted as Robin Soderling defeated Victor Crivoi 6-2, 6-1, 7-5 to put that nation on level footing. The following day, Soderling paired with Robert Lindstedt to beat Horia Tecau and Hanescu  6-1, 7-6, 7-6.  The following afternoon in the all important fourth match, Soderling crushed Hanescu 7-5, 6-1, 6-0 to prevent Sweden, a perennial fixture in the world group, from being relegated.

Shortly after the euphoria of Marcos Daniel’s win over Ecuadorian Giovanni Lapentti, the Brazilian crowd was brought back to earth as brother Nicolas Lapentti defeated Thomaz Bellucci 7-6, 6-4, 7-5. On Saturday the Lapentti siblings inflicted further misery by prevailing in five sets match over Marcelo Melo and Andre Sa.  With Ecuador leading 2-1, in Sunday’s reverse rubber, Daniel down two sets to none, pushed Nicolas Lapentti to a fifth set.  Yet, the hometown crowd was brought to despair as Lapentti carried the match 6-4,6-4,1-6,2-6,8-6 thereby eliminating Brazil from the world group.

The most compelling group matches were Belgium vs. Ukraine and Chile vs. Austria with both requiring a decisive fifth rubber.  After Belgium’s Christophe Rochus and Steve Darcis gave their side a 2-0 advantage on Friday, Saturday in doubles, Sergei Bubka and Sergiy Stakhovsky defeated Xavier Malisse and Oliver Rochus 7-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 to keep Ukraine in the game.  Furthermore, on Sunday, Stakhovsky denied Malisse by claiming the fourth rubber 6-3, 3-6, 0-6, 6-1, 6-3.  But, Belgium’s setback was temporary. In the fifth rubber, Darcis strong armed Bubka 6-2, 6-1, 6-0.

A continent away, Chile found itself in the same position as Belgium.   After Nicolas Massu and Paul Capdeville won their matches on Friday.  Austrians Julian Knowle and Jurgen Melzer kept their nation in the fold by beating Massu and Capdeville in doubles.  Moreover, the Chilean crowd had its anxiety heighten as Melzer won the fourth rubber 7-6, 4-6, 6-2, 5-7,6-4 over Capdeville. However, later that day, Massu defeated Stefan Koubek 6-4,4-6,6-4,7-6 to grab the ultimate world group spot.

The victors will square off next year against Spain, the Czech Republic, the U.S., Russia, Argentina, Croatia, Israel and Germany, the top eight seeds in that order. The placement for the world group playoff winners will be released Wednesday.

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