Tag Archive | "Del Potro"

Federer, Murray, Roddick and Nadal Stand Out of the Heap as U.S. Open Favorites

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Federer, Murray, Roddick and Nadal Stand Out of the Heap as U.S. Open Favorites


The U.S. Open draw has been unveiled with the usual suspects at the top pack.  Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are the highest seeds followed respectively by Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.  For some, the path has multiple green lights, but for others it is lined with yellow flags.  Here’s a breakdown of the draw.

After his victories at the French Open and Wimbledon, Nadal is once more in pursuit of the U.S. Open trophy, the sole major he lacks.  In 2008, the Spaniard was halted in the semifinals by Murray and last year in the same round by Juan Martin Del Potro, the champion.  Although Nadal has been the most prolific performer on grass and clay this season, hardcourt has been a different story.  Nadal has a lone final appearance in January in Doha and went down to Nikolay Davydenko.  With neither injury nor fatigue an issue this time, Nadal is capable of going the distance.  However, there may be a significant boulder in his way in the quarterfinals.

Finally in shape after hip surgery, David Nalbandian has made himself part of the conversation and could clash with Nadal in the quarterfinals.  Although Nadal recorded the win at their last meeting at the Sony Ericsson Open in March, Nalbandian’s form has improved markedly since then.  Moreover, Nalbandian took the title as a wildcard at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic earlier this month.  As a result, the Argentine will not be an easy customer for the Spaniard.

While Fernando Verdasco, the eight seed, is technically another likely quarterfinal counterpart for Nadal, Verdasco is at best a minute obstacle.  With a 10-0 record against his countryman, in a five set match, Nadal is a sure bet.

De novo, Nadal has been placed on a collision course with Murray to reach his first U.S. Open final.  Twice on hardcourt this year, Murray has comprehensively beaten Nadal including the Rogers Cup two weeks ago.  After dreadful results most of the season, Murray is at last in form and defended his title in Toronto.  If they clash in the semifinals, Nadal will have a tough time getting a pass.

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Another Argentine at Home in Washington:  Nalbandian Grasps the Title

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Another Argentine at Home in Washington: Nalbandian Grasps the Title


Although injury prevented Juan Martin Del Potro, the 2008-09 champion, from defending his title at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic; Del Potro’s countryman , wildcard entrant David Nalbandian, proved an excellent substitute.  Despite being gravely tested by Marcos Baghdatis, the 8th and sole remaining seed, Nalbandian walked away with the championship with a 6-2, 7-6 victory.

As a former world number three, Nalbandian’s current ranking of 117 due to hip surgery and other injuries the past twelve months did not reflect his talent.  In phenomenal form this week, dropping just one set prior to the final, Nalbandian felt his game was now coming together.  Classify it as arrogance, confidence or clairvoyance, after his semifinal win yesterday, Nalbandian intimated that if his form held up, he would run away with the title.

The first game of the match, following two errors by Baghdatis, Nalbandian connected on a forehand crosscourt return winner to earn triple break point.  When Baghdatis’ forehand landed long, Nalbandian took the game.  Next, the Argentine consolidated for a 2-0 lead.  His next time serving, Baghdatis got on the board for 2-1.  Too many return mistakes by Baghdatis especially on second serves led to short rallies and permitted Nalbandian to maintain the break advantage for 4-2. After having game point, Baghdatis double faulted for deuce.  Then, by netting a backhand down the line, the Cypriot donated another break point.  Nalbandian capitalized by hitting a backhand pass for a winner and 5-2.  By comfortably holding, Nalbandian wrapped up the first set in 32 minutes.

In yesterday’s semifinal, Nalbandian required just 72 minutes to dismiss fourth seed Marin Cilic.  His first set performance gave off the vibe that this might be another short match.  After having a game point, Baghdatis double faulted and later on in the first game gave Nalbandian a break point.  Fortunately for the Cypriot, he guarded serve.  The subsequent game, it was Nalbandian who cracked, committing two double faults to gift Baghdatis his first break and a 2-0 lead.  Quickly though, Nalbandian rebounded with a forehand down the line winner for double break point which he banked after a backhand error by Baghdatis.  In the fourth game, Baghdatis obtained double break point on another Nalbandian double fault.  Despite Nalbandian having to resort to his second serve, Baghdatis failed to seize those chances. Too casual on a forehand volley, Baghdatis dumped it in the net on his fifth break point.  Ultimately, Nalbandian salvaged six break points to level the set at 2 all.  Next, on another mistake filled game, Nalbandian broke to move ahead 3-2.  Nevertheless, Baghdatis did not relent and promptly stole the following game to get back on serve.  After holding, Baghdatis knocked at the door again, earning two break points, yet was rebuked by Nalbandian.  Following three love holds by the players, with Nalbandian serving at 5-6, Baghdatis reached set point.  As before, Nalbandian dug out of trouble and pushed the set to a tiebreaker.

Aided by miscues from Baghdatis, Nalbandian rolled off five straight points in the tiebreaker for 5-0.  With Baghdatis misfiring on an easy forehand, Nalbandian arrived at 6-3 and had three championship points.  As Baghdatis’ forehand up the line sailed wide, Nalbandian claimed his 11th career trophy.  The Argentine’s first since Sydney 2009.

Subsequent to the match, Baghdatis’ analysis was as follow when asked by MiamiTennisNews:
Q.  Did you feel you had to go for more on your second serve because Nalbandian returns so well?
Baghdatis: Yes. I felt in the second set I had to mix it up a bit, go for more.  I think I did pretty well in the second set.  We are two players who are great at returning.  I think if I served better today especially first serve, with more free points, I could have won.. I did not do that which was the key to the match.

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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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Tennis Is Healthier With A Healthy Nadal

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Tennis Is Healthier With A Healthy Nadal


img_1180_rnIn the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, defending champion and world number two, Rafael Nadal, prematurely set down his racket due to the sudden onset of a knee injury.  For several seasons, the 23 year old has been afflicted with one form of physical ailment or another.  After an extraordinary victory in 2008, last June, Nadal was unable to defend his title at Wimbledon due to tendonitis.  As an individual who has exhibited exemplary conduct both on and off the court, there’s a noticeable void when a player of Nadal’s caliber is absent.  Here are a few reasons why the game is better with Nadal.

With Andy Murray dominating from the very first stroke and only three games from a straight sets victory, there was little suspense as to the outcome of the quarterfinals. Still, with the Spaniard, there is often a sliver of hope for a comeback.  One of Nadal’s most admirable attribute is his inherent belief, regardless of the score, that he is not vanquished until the last ball is struck.  In Nadal’s psyche, there’s invariably that one shot which sparks the turning point in the match.  It’s hard to bet against a man who last year in Australia after a thrilling five hour and 20 minute, five set semifinal defeated Roger Federer after another five setter with less than 24 hour turnaround.

If one were to browse the dictionary for the definition of driven or relentless, it would not be shocking to discover a photograph of Nadal.  Whether in practice or in match situation, Nadal gives 1000% effort, a reflection of his perfectionist personality. There’s an ATP commercial which describes tennis players as “gladiators” on the pitch; perhaps no person epitomizes that description better than Nadal.  Each time he steps on the court it seems a duel to the death.

While Nadal’s all-encompassing dedication is laudable, the intense manner he approaches the game has taken a toll on his body.  Bouts of tendonitis in both knees have hampered Nadal’s movement.  With the nature of his game, it’s inevitable that these structures will be under recurrent stress. Therefore, even for an athlete as talented as Nadal, it becomes impossible to compensate.  One option could be for him to go on a lengthy sabbatical since resting is crucial for healing.  The down side would be that his ranking would suffer. Sometimes, one wishes Nadal could trade in his knees for new ones every so many miles as he does his tennis shoes.

The injuries are unfortunate because over the years Nadal has grown as a player.  He has incorporated different shots which have helped him succeed on surfaces other than clay.  In some respects, Nadal’s resume is more well-rounded and accomplished than Federer’s.  Nadal’s first major was at age 18 while Federer’s came at age 21.The Spaniard has an Olympic gold medal in singles and a couple of Davis Cup titles.  On the contrary, there’s been a sporadic commitment by the Swiss to the Davis Cup.

In an era dominated by Federer, Nadal’s most significant contribution is proving that there are many ways to triumph.  These two players have contrasting styles as well as differences in other areas.  Nadal is a lefty, Federer a righty. The former plays two handed on the backhand wing while the latter has a one handed stroke.  Federer moves as a quasi ballet dancer on court, Nadal more like a football player. But, there is common ground in that they are both passionate about their sport.

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ATP Australian Open Early Round Rewind

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ATP Australian Open Early Round Rewind


img_0642_mcAfter one week of play, the cream of the ATP has risen to the top at the Australian Open.   Although some had a tougher road than others, eight of the top seeds are still in the hunt.  Here’s a look back at the tournament’s key moments to date.

In the first round, Igor Andreev’s forehand gave world number one Roger Federer all sorts of headache.  After stealing the first set, Andreev was just one forehand winner away from serving for a two set to one lead.  When Andreev’s shot sailed long, so did his opportunity at an upset.  Thereafter, Federer cruised through his matches.

Another difficult challenge lays ahead for Federer in the fourth round in Aussie Lleyton Hewitt who will have the support of the crowd.  Still, Federer is favored in that match.  Should Federer advance, his tasks gets more complicated since he could face Nikolay Davydenko in the quarters, a man who has beaten him their last two meetings.

While Fernando Verdasco, a semifinalist last year, struggled through his first round match then benefited from a retirement his last round;  Davydenko, his fourth round opponent, has been in peak form through three rounds.  If Davydenko moves on to the quarterfinals, Federer’s streak of 22 consecutive majors semifinal will be in serious jeopardy.

An astounding fatality in the first round was French Open finalist, Robin Soderling. Playing Marcel Granollers ranked 113, Soderling let a two set to none advantage evaporate.  Current U.S. Open champ Juan Martin Del Potro who has been dealing with a wrist injury also made an early exit. After defeating James Blake in a thrilling second round match, in the fourth round, Del Potro fought hard but came up short against Marin Cilic in another five setter.  Cilic who has now gotten to the quarterfinals in the last two majors will battle Andy Roddick.

Although Roddick has been pushed with each passing round, he’s had the answers.  After straight sets wins in rounds one and two, Roddick required four sets against Feliciano Lopez, then five versus Fernando Gonzalez, the Australian Open 2007 finalist and his coach’s former pupil. If Roddick aces the Cilic exam, it will be either Rafael Nadal or Andy Murray his next nemesis.

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Analysis of the 2010 Australian Open Draw

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Analysis of the 2010 Australian Open Draw


australian_open_logoThe Australian Open draw is out.  More than any prior year, in this imprecise game of predictions, the only certainty is the uncertainty in determining a frontrunner for the trophy on both the ladies’ and gentlemen’s side.  With no one having a conspicuous edge, with few exceptions, anyone in the top ten can be regarded as a legitimate contender.  Moreover, on the women’s side, the return of some old faces with previous success at majors means that it’s is truly anybody’s title.

In the top half of the draw, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Nikolay Davydenko and Robyn Soderling are the highest seeds respectively. Astonishingly, if the last couple of months are an accurate barometer, Davydenko is for the first time a true threat to make it all the way to the final.  After wrapping 2009 with the ATP World tour finals trophy, just  days ago, Davydenko brought down Federer and Rafael Nadal to take the title in Qatar.  However, the question remains as to whether Davydenko can translate that type of success to a best of five set tournament over two weeks. If the draw proceeds as expected, Davydenko will have a crack at Federer in the quarters and Djokovic or Soderling in the semis.

For his part, Federer has a pretty challenging road in attempting to reach the final.  In the first round, the world number one faces the ever dangerous Igor Andreev.  Subsequently, there are possible match-ups with Australian Open finalists Lleyton Hewitt and Marcos Baghdatis in the round of 16. Other than Davydenko, Fernando Verdasco, a semifinalist in ’09, is a potential in the quarters. So, Federer will need to be on his toes to advance beyond the quarters.

Third seed Djokovic should have a fairly unobstructed run to the quarters.  Still, Richard Gasquet who is getting back in the swing of the game may be a problem for Djokovic in the round of 16. Furthermore, on that side of the draw, majors’ finalists Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Soderling could clash in the round of 16.  With both Tsonga and Soderling potential quarterfinal opponents for Djokovic and with both having wins over the latter, a Djokovic/Federer semifinal is in far from a foregone conclusion.

In the bottom half of the draw, for the defending champion Nadal and Andy Murray, technically, their path to a quarterfinal showdown appears uncomplicated. Yet, Radek Stepanek, a potential round of 16 encounter for Nadal, is perhaps the sole question mark.  In Murray’s case, a healthy Gael Monfils can spell trouble in the round of 16.  But, with Monfils fighting injury, Murray will not be bothered.

Last year’s semifinalist Andy Roddick has another golden opportunity to move at least to the quarterfinal despite Fernando Gonzalez seemingly in his way.  Also, with U.S. Open champ Juan Martin Del Potro fettered by a wrist injury, his progress deep into the draw is in doubt.  Del Potro is slated to see Marin Cilic in the quarters or Roddick in the semis.

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ATP’s Rollercoaster Ride in 2009

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ATP’s Rollercoaster Ride in 2009


img_2928From Rafael Nadal winning his first hardcourt major in Australia, to Roger Federer completing the career grand slam, to the emergence of a new major star Juan Martin Del Potro at the U.S. Open, 2009 was a year replete with ups and downs on the men’s tour.  Here’s a flashback.

At the Australian Open final, despite a marathon semifinal match, Nadal had adequate reserves to stare down Federer in another five setter.  With that victory, Nadal seemed well positioned to achieve the calendar grand slam.  After sweeping every clay court tournament, Nadal was halted at the Madrid Masters by Federer days prior to the French Open. For many analysts, fatigue may have been deserving of an assist as Federer defeated Nadal in straight sets to capture his initial title of 2009. As such, Nadal was still considered the outright favorite for a fifth consecutive French trophy.

While everyone may have discounted Robin Soderling in the fourth round at the French Open, the Swede who played a contentious match with Nadal at Wimbledon in 2007 had visions of victory dancing in his head.  Soderling upstaged the best clay player in circulation, handing Nadal his first defeat at Roland Garros.  Soderling rode this euphoric wave all the way to his first final at a major where he was ultimately stopped by Federer. In addition, Soderling was a quarterfinalist at the U.S. Open.  At his initial ATP World Tour Finals, Soderling was a semifinalist and with that result jumped to a career best ranking of 8th after commencing 2008 at 17.

Melbourne was the site where Fernando Verdasco at last  lived up to his talent.  After surprising Andy Murray the hottest player on tour in the fourth round, Verdasco was involved in a dogfight in the semifinals with countryman Nadal.  Hands down, the best match of the tournament and one of the most scintillating of the year, the two Spaniards went toe to toe for over five hours.  Although Nadal was triumphant, Verdasco’s run in Australia galvanized him the rest of the year.  Verdasco reached the quarters at the U.S. Open and was instrumental in Davis Cup play. Verdasco participated in his first ATP World Tour Finals and ended 2009 at number 9.

After an horrendous start to the season, Federer’s year turned around after beating Nadal in Madrid in May. After avoiding a sleuth of pitfalls to get to the French Open final, Federer grabbed the elusive brass ring and tied Pete Sampras’ record of 14 majors.  With a knee injury placing Wimbledon defending champ Nadal out of action, the impossibility of a Federer-Nadal duel could have been deflating for the championships.  To the contrary, Andy Roddick stepped up to the plate and in facing Federer, the two had a final to rival last year’s epic.  Federer had to out ace Roddick, required 95 minutes and 30 games in the fifth set before coming away with the victory and a record setting 15 majors.  In July, Federer supplanted Nadal at the top of the ATP’s ranking list.  Brimming with confidence, Federer appeared unstoppable and was a shoe-in for a sixth consecutive  title in New York.

At the U.S. Open, Federer battled Del Potro in the final.  With this being the latter’s maiden major final, jitters were more likely than not to play a pivotal role.  In spite of his youth, Del Potro demonstrated that he is a quick study.  After a devastating lost to Federer in the French semifinals, down two sets to one, Del Potro carried a tiebreaker and showed up Federer in the fifth set to capture his initial major. Del Potro closed 2009 as the world’s fifth best player and is a definite threat to take over the top spot in 2010.

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Davydenko Tames Del Potro At Year End Final

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Davydenko Tames Del Potro At Year End Final


img_4089At the ultimate showdown of the ATP World Tour Finals, Juan Martin Del Potro, reigning U.S. Open champ and world number 5, and Nikolay Davydenko vied for the season’s last prestigious prize.  Davydenko unraveled Del Potro’s game 6-3, 6-4 to snatch the trophy.

Only 5 feet 10 inches and 154 pounds, Davydenko bullied 6 feet 6 inches and 184 pounds Del Potro all day long.  With his foot speed , the Russian had Del Potro on a string, dismissing the Argentine’s powerful ground strokes.  Following uneventful games, with Del Potro serving at 1-2 and 40-30, Davydenko ripped a forehand crosscourt winner for deuce.  Later on, after Del Potro had a foot fault called on an ace at deuce, he misfired on a forehand to give Davydenko his second break point.  When Del Potro netted a backhand on a neutral point, Davydenko had the break.  Conspicuously rattled by the prior call, Del Potro produced a rash of errors allowing Davydenko to easily consolidate for 4-1.  Subsequent to a comfortable game, Del Potro had his initial break point when Davydenko double faulted.  However, the Russian kept his composure, striking a beautiful forehand up the line winner for deuce.  Davydenko went on to secure the game for 5-2.  At love his next service game, Davydenko closed out the first set.

Incredibly, in the first set, Davydenko struck 12 winners and 6 unforced errors while Del Potro had 10 and 11 respectively.  Nikolay dictated play by pushing Juan Martin behind the baseline and taking the ball early.  Even Del Potro’s serve proved meek; once the ball was in play Davydenko had him scrambling from sideline to sideline. At 2 all, a forehand dumped into the net gave Davydenko his first break chance of the set.  However, with a couple of T serves, Del Potro recovered to take a slender lead at 3-2.  The next game, after setting up the point with a perfect serve, Davydenko mucked up the forehand up the line to give Del Potro an opening.  But, with an ace, Davydenko erased the break point and got to deuce.  Still, Del Potro received another opportunity when Davydenko’s backhand crosscourt landed long.  By handling a high forehand volley, Davydenko wiped out that break point. Despite the hardships, Davydenko guarded serve for 3 all.  Since Davydenko controlled the majority of the rallies, in truth, Del Potro was hanging on by a thread.  With Del Potro serving at 4 a piece, Davydenko converted a backhand crosscourt winner, sent a forehand winner up the line and replicated a forehand crosscourt winner to arrive at triple break point.  When Del Potro’s forehand up the line sailed wide, Davydenko found himself one game from the championship.  After starting with an ace, the Russian forced Del Potro into a backhand miscue and with another ace obtained double match point.  Davydenko wrapped up the trophy when Del Potro tracked down his overhead but dumped the stroke into the net.

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Davydenko Destroys Nadal In Shanghai

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Davydenko Destroys Nadal In Shanghai


img_4089With the men’s year end tournament moved to London, Shanghai gained a Masters 1000 series tournament. In the finals, Nikolay Davydenko stamped his name on the inaugural trophy by beating Rafael Nadal 7-6, 6-3. For Davydenko, it was his third career Masters’ shield and his fourth title of the season.

Shanghai marked Nadal’s return to the finals since his hiatus due to knee tendonitis in June. The Spaniard looked in great form all week.  Yet, Davydenko was no slouch.  The Russian took out second seed Novak Djokovic in the semifinals after losing the first set.  In many respects, this match was reminiscent of the 2008 Sony Ericsson final with Davydenko assuming the role of aggressor. Immediately, that tactic paid dividends for the Russian, particularly in the long rallies.

With Nadal serving at 1 all, Davydenko surprised his rival by crushing a forehand winner up the line. Then, by producing some great angles, Davydenko came up with a backhand volley winner for love-40.  Subsequently, Davydenko secured the break with a swing volley winner.  Afterwards, with a couple of forehand winners up the line, Davydenko consolidated the break for 3-1.  Next, a backhand error by Nadal gave Davydenko a 15-40 edge and the opportunity at a safety net.  However, with Davydenko missing two forehands up the line, Nadal eventually got out of jail. Serving at 4-3. Davydenko’s miscue on a forehand gave the Spaniard his first break point. Despite the Russian erasing that one, later, another forehand mistake resulted in Nadal leveling the set at 4 a piece. At 4-5, Davydenko made a forehand crosscourt error to gift Nadal set point at 30-40.  But, after flubbing a previous overhead, Davydenko handled a lob for winner and kept the set alive. Ultimately, the set went to a tiebreaker. With a backhand volley winner on a high ball, Davydenko obtained a mini-break for 1-0.  Shortly thereafter, Nadal sponged out Davydenko’s edge with a spectacular backhand reflex volley. Unrelenting, daredevil Davydenko fired another backhand down the winner to secure another mini-break for 3-2.  When Nadal splayed a forehand off a deep return, Davydenko extended the gap to 6-3. Later, with a backhand down the line winner, Davydenko put a period on the set.

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Tsonga Ends Youzhny’s Great Run by Taking Japan Open Title

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Tsonga Ends Youzhny’s Great Run by Taking Japan Open Title


img_0514The finals of Japan Open, an ATP 500 event, pinned Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the second seed, against Russian Mikhail Youzhny, a surprising finalist.  Both men were trying to win their fifth career title and become the first conqueror of this tournament from their country.  Tsonga came out on top 6-3, 6-3 over Youzhny to claim his third title of 2009.

With U.S. Open reigning champion Juan Martin Del Potro ousted in the first round, Tsonga as the highest remaining seed had a load on his shoulders.  In addition, the Frenchman had his work cut out for him considering how well Youzhny had been playing.  The Russian defeated third seed Gilles Simon, fifth seed and defending champion Tomas Berdych and eight seed Lleyton Hewitt. Moreover, Youzhny was parched for a trophy with his last being in January 2008.  After each person held his opening service game, Youzhny had the initial opportunity to break when Tsonga sent a forehand wide. Yet, despite difficulties, Tsonga pulled off the game with expertly located serves and a forehand volley winner for 2-1.  By steadying his backhand, up to that juncture, Youzhny kept his opponent on his heel.  But, after Tsonga captured a service game at love for 4-3, Youzhny failed to connect on first serves and with a couple of backhand unforced errors was in a double break point hole.  When the Russian misfired on the forehand up the line, the Frenchman had a 5-3 lead.  Then at 40-0, Tsonga threw in an ace to wrap up the set.

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