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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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So Nice to Be On Grass: Federer Claims Fifth Title in Halle

After the fiasco in the finals of the French Open last week, Roger Federer was probably relieved to be back on grass. The world number one extended his winning streak on that surface to 59 by beating hometown boy, Philipp Kohlschreiber, 6-3, 6-4 at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany.

With the crowd in his corner, Kohlschreiber was inspired and played well. In the first set, the German kept up with Federer and actually had the opportunity to go up a break in the third game. Unfortunately for him, Federer served his way out of trouble. Federer’s variety, his most potent asset, proved overwhelming for Kohlschreiber. Eventually, Roger got the upper hand in the first set with a break 5-3. With a strong service game, Roger closed out the set.

Early on in the second set, Federer had a few chances to break. Yet, the German found a way to pull through. While serving at 3-3, Kohlschreiber once again lost his way which allowed Federer to take the lead 4-3. Nevertheless, with the spectators urging him on after a double fault, the German extended the match to 4-5. In the end, with a powerful service game, Federer closed out the match to secure the championship.

With his atrocious record against top ten competitors 8-18, Kohlschreiber beating James Blake, the second seed, in the semifinals was a surprise. Federer appeared in tip-top shape throughout the tournament with straight sets victories over every opponent he faced. Hopefully, this title will heal some of Federer’s latest wounds and help him regain the confidence he has been lacking the last few months. With Nadal’s first title on grass in Artois coming also today, the gauntlet has been thrown. Should these two meet in the finals at Wimbledon, Nadal may have the psychological edge and that may be the deciding factor in the match.

On the doubles side, after Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram, the number one seed, lost in the second round, the draw opened up. The finals came down to the number four seeds, Leander Paes /Lukas Dhouly and the unseeded team of Mikhail Youzhny /Mischa Zverev. The latter prevailed in the three sets.

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