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France Ousts Defending Champion Spain to Reach Davis Cup Semifinals

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France Ousts Defending Champion Spain to Reach Davis Cup Semifinals


The year was 1923 the last time France carried a Davis Cup tie against Spain.  Today, the Frenchmen rectified that situation as Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra defeated Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez 6-1,6-2, 6-7,7-6 to secure the crucial third point.  In so doing, France advances to the semifinals for the first time since 2004.

Yesterday in the city of Clermont-Ferrand, on a hardcourt stadium with over 6,000 rowdy fans, Gael Monfils set the tone of the quarterfinals with a 7-6,6-2,4-6,5-7,6-4 win over David Ferrer.  Ahead two sets to none, Monfils took a detour which permitted Ferrer to force the match into a fifth set.  After getting the early break, Monfils wiped out a break point to maintain a 5-2 advantage.  But, with Monfils serving at 5-3, Ferrer climbed back into the set.  However, after dropping serve, Monfils broke to give France the first rubber.

The second rubber was a battle of lefthanders, Llodra versus Verdasco.  For Llodra, the world number 10 presented a daunting challenge.  Nevertheless, by utilizing his serve supremely, Llodra defeated Verdasco 6-7,6-4,6-3,7-6.  After Llodra failed to capitalize on two set points, Verdasco prevailed in a first set tiebreaker.  Still, Llodra blocked out his previous misfortunes to break Verdasco in the initial game of the second set.  That was all the Frenchman needed to square the match.  The second set, Llodra again captured a sole break to carry that set.  After Llodra obtained the break early on in the fourth, Verdasco was able to manufacture his first break point of the match.  Nonetheless, Llodra managed to turn the Spaniard away.  Yet, in the sixth game, Verdasco procured a second break point opportunity and converted.  Ultimately, the set was settled in a tiebreaker in France’s favor.  With Llodra’s first triumph in singles in Davis Cup play, France was one victory away from a semifinal berth.

Today, following an easy hold by Llodra, Lopez started his game with a double fault.  Later, with a backhand mid-court winner, Llodra gave France double break point.  When Verdasco’s backhand volley found the bottom of the net, France secured the break.  The next game, courtesy of a forehand error by Benneteau, Spain had break point.  However, Benneteau served well enough to force the Spaniards into mistakes and extend France’s lead to 3-0 in the first set.  With Lopez serving, after a good backhand return by Llodra, Verdasco dumped a forehand volley into the net to hand France double break point.  When Benneteau connected on a forehand return winner, France stretched its advantage to 5-1. Shortly thereafter, Benneteau closed out the set.

With a forehand up the line return winner, Benneteau brought France to break point.  When Verdasco netted another forehand, France broke to open the second set.  With a love game, Llodra consolidated for 2-0.  Comfortable games by both teams kept the Spaniards just one game behind.  However, serving at 2-4, Lopez committed two consecutive double faults to stare at double break point.  After saving the initial, Lopez sent a forehand volley into the net.  As a result, France took the game and later with a forehand volley winner by Llodra sealed the second set.

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Main Event:  Venus and Kim in Sony Ericsson Open Final

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Main Event: Venus and Kim in Sony Ericsson Open Final


The women’s final is front and center this afternoon as Venus Williams and Kim Clijsters bang heads for the Sony Ericsson Open trophy.

Venus attempts to avenge her fourth round 2009 U.S. Open loss and to stop a three match skid to Clijsters.  If Venus is successful, she will claim her third consecutive title; her first in Miami since 2001 but her fourth overall.

For her part, Clijsters tries to prevail in her second final this year.  She defeated fellow Belgian Justine Henin earlier this year for the Brisbane title. The winner in Miami in 2005, Clijsters is looking for her second trophy.

Later, Max Mirnyi and Mahesh Bhupathi battle Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes in the ATP doubles final.  Mirnyi captured the title last year with partner Andy Ram and is going for a record fifth doubles championship in Miami.  His teammate this year has yet to seize this prize in Miami.

In the late afternoon, a benefit for the victims of the earthquake in Chile takes place.  “Champions for Chile” features doubles action with Jim Courier and Andy Roddick partnering to play against Chilean Fernando Gonzalez and Gustavo Kuerten.

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Berdych Boots Out Verdasco, Soderling Discharges Youzhny

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Berdych Boots Out Verdasco, Soderling Discharges Youzhny


At the Sony Ericsson Open, Tomas Berdych and Robin Soderling claimed the remaining semifinal positions.  Berdych pulled his act together against Fernando Verdasco to win 4-6,7-6,6-4.  Conversely, Soderling expedited Mikhail Youzhny in straight sets 6-1,6-4.

In the first set, after Verdasco survived a love-40 game, he worked his way to double break point.  Verdasco broke for a 3-2 advantage.  With that sole break, Verdasco went on to capture the first set.

One of Berdych’s greatest issue was too mistakes on the forehand side.  His initial game of the second set, Berdych dropped serve.  Verdasco then rubbed out a break point to get to 2-0.  But, as Verdasco served at 3-2, Berdych picked on his rival’s backhand to get to double break point.  When Verdasco’s forehand landed long, the set was tied at 3 all.  After double faulting to give Verdasco break point, Berdych maintained serve for a 4-3 edge.  As the set progressed, Berdych found his forehand and forced a tiebreaker.  In carrying the tiebreaker, Berdych sent the match into a third set.

At 3 a piece in the decisive set, with back to back backhand errors, Verdasco faced double break point.  With a spectacular backhand pass, Berdych secured the break for 4-3.  After Berdych consolidated, Verdasco held at love to force him to serve for the match.  With Verdasco’s forehand miscue, Berdych had double match point. Then, with a forehand winner, Berdych seized the victory.

Tonight, Soderling raced through the first set taking it 6-1 against Youzhny.  However, in the second set, Youzhny woke up, making it more compelling.  After Soderling sprinted to a 3-1 lead, Youzhny held at love to keep the deficit to one break.  The following game, Youzhny had break point and capitalized.  Still, Soderling was too much for his rival.  The next game, Soderling wrestled another break from Youzhny and consolidated for 5-3.  Although Youzhny held at love, Soderling guarded serve to claim the match. Soderling and Berdych will square off in the semifinals.  In their head to head series, Soderling leads 4-2.

In doubles action, Leander Paes and Lukas Dlouhy defeated Nicolas Almagro and Tommy Robredo 6-3,6-0 to advance to the finals.  Mahesh Bhupathi and Max Mirnyi beat Arnaud Clement and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4,6-7,10-4 in the quarters.  Tomorrow, they will face Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski in the semifinals.

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Women Semifinal Day at the 2010 Sony Ericsson Open:  Venus, Bartoli, Henin and Clijsters

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Women Semifinal Day at the 2010 Sony Ericsson Open: Venus, Bartoli, Henin and Clijsters


At the Sony Ericsson Open today, the women finalists will be determined along with the semifinalists for the top half of the men’s draw.

For the third time, Venus Williams takes on Marion Bartoli. Their head to head stands at one all.  Williams carried their 2007 Wimbledon final match while Bartoli won their last encounter in Stanford in 2009.  In the ultimate session, Kim Clijsters clashes with Justine Henin.  Earlier in the year, they played in the finals in Brisbane.  Clijsters defeated Henin in three sets in what she stated was “ one of . . .  most exciting matches I think that I’ve played [in]  my career . . . we had a great time out there”.

In the initial male quarterfinal, Tomas Berdych faces Fernando Verdasco.  After his amazing triumph over Roger Federer, Berdych attempts to at least equal his best result in Miami, he reached the semifinals in 2008.  Berdych has 5-3 record against Verdasco.  They’ve split their last two meetings.

Mikhail Youzhny and Robin Soderling battle it out for the ultimate semifinal berth.  Soderling has been victorious their last three out of four matches. In Rotterdam this year, Soderling beat Youzhny. Soderling was well on his way to securing the trophy before the Russian retired with a hamstring problem.

In addition, there’s a sprinkling of doubles as Nicolas Almagro and Tommy Robredo square off against Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes for a spot in the finals.  Arnaud Clement and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga meet Mahesh Bhupathi and Max Mirnyi in the quarterfinals.  Last year, Mirnyi won the title with partner Andy Ram.

Here is today’s complete schedule :

THURSDAY, APRIL 1

STADIUM start 1:00 PM
[13] M Bartoli (FRA) vs [3] V Williams (USA) – WTA

Not Before 3:00 PM
[16] T Berdych (CZE) vs [10] F Verdasco (ESP) - ATP
Almagro/Robredo vs [3]Dlouhy/Paes

Starting at 7:00 PM
[13] M Youzhny (RUS) vs [5] R Soderling (SWE) – ATP

Not Before 9:00 PM
[14] K Clijsters (BEL) vs [WC] J Henin (BEL) – WTA

COURT 2 Not before 4:30 pm
Clement/Tsonga vs. [4]Bhupathi/Mirnyi

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Quarterfinal Headliners at the 2010 SEO:  Henin, Wozniacki, Clijsters and Nadal

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Quarterfinal Headliners at the 2010 SEO: Henin, Wozniacki, Clijsters and Nadal


The remaining two women singles semifinal slots will be assigned today at the Sony Ericsson Open.  In addition, the men get their singles quarterfinal round under way.

Following women quarterfinal doubles action, Justine Henin and Caroline Wozniacki kick off the afternoon on stadium court.  For Wozniacki, this is her initial encounter with the four time French Open, two time U.S Open and 2004 Australian Open champion.  Afterwards, Andy Roddick battles Nicolas Almagro.  Likewise, it’s the first meeting for these guys.  Because the surface is hardcourt and not clay where Almagro has won his five ATP titles, Roddick has the advantage considering his superb results lately. Subsequently, Mike and Bob Bryan face Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski in the quarterfinals.

The women’s night session has Samantha Stosur and Kim Clijsters.  Although Clijsters has a 2-0 record versus Stosur,  their ultimate collision was in Miami in 2007.  A victory by Henin and Clijsters will result in an all Belgian semifinal in the bottom half of the draw.

The evening ends with the match featuring Rafael Nadal and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.  The only time Tsonga defeated Nadal was in the quarters of the 2008 Australian Open.  Since then, they have played three hotly contested matches.  With Tsonga performing well in Miami, this should be a great battle.

In addition, the grandstand focuses on male doubles with the team of Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez as well as Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes to name a few.

Here is today’s full schedule :

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31

STADIUM start 11:00 am
Y Chan (TPE) / J Zheng (CHN) vs [8] E Makarova (RUS) / S Peng (CHN) – WTA

Not Before 1:00 PM
[WC] J Henin (BEL) vs [2] C Wozniacki (DEN) – WTA

Not Before 3:00 PM
[6] A Roddick (USA) vs [33] N Almagro (ESP) – ATP
[8] M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL) vs [2] B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) – ATP

Not Before 7:00 PM
[9] S Stosur (AUS) vs [14] K Clijsters (BEL) – WTA

Not Before 9:00 PM
[8] J Tsonga (FRA) vs [4] R Nadal (ESP) – ATP

GRANDSTAND start 12:00 noon
[3] L Dlouhy (CZE) / L Paes (IND) vs B Becker (GER) / M Kohlmann (GER) – ATP

Not Before 6:00 PM
N Almagro (ESP) / T Robredo (ESP) vs F Lopez (ESP) / F Verdasco (ESP) – After appropriate rest


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Spain Bounces Israel , Czech Republic Outlives Croatia in Davis Cup Semis

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Spain Bounces Israel , Czech Republic Outlives Croatia in Davis Cup Semis


img_97281With Spain’s best players, Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco, out of commission due to abdominal muscle injuries, the defending Davis Cup champion had to rely on an alternate squad to bat in the semifinals against Israel.  Unfortunately for first time semifinalist Israel, the tandem of David Ferrer, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Tommy Robredo and Feliciano Lopez showed no cracks.

Spurred on by their home crowd as well as cheerleaders Nadal and Verdasco, the Spaniards gave an A+ performance. As a result, by Saturday, Spain had carried all three rubbers to safely move on to the finals for the second straight year. Although with the clay Israel was at a conspicuous disadvantage, it still put up an admirable fight. On Friday, Ferrer got his team off to a great start with a 6-1,6-4,6-3 victory over Harel Levy.  Subsequently, Israel’s best singles offering Dudi Sela battled Juan Carlos Ferrero. Despite Sela’s valiant effort, with a far more competitive rubber than the score reflected, Sela could not keep up with the former French Open champion.  Ferrero prevailed 6-4,6-2,6-0.

On Saturday, with Spain ahead two matches to none, the 2008 Australian doubles champion and renowned Israeli pair Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich represented Israel’s best opportunity to keep its remarkable run alive.  The Israelis encountered a wall as Robredo & Lopez, who seldom play as a unit, came up victorious 7-6,6-7,6-4,6-2.  With neither team able to capitalize on break point chances, the first set was captured by Spain in a tiebreaker.  However, the Israelis quickly reversed that momentum  in the second set when Lopez double faulted at 0-40 giving them a 1-0 edge.  After Israel consolidated, Robredo saved three break points to maintain a one game deficit at 1-2.  With Israel serving for the set at 4-5, Erlich committed a myriad of volley errors which allowed Spain to get back on serve. Following Robredo’s love service game for 6-5, Israel up 40-15 needed Ram’s sensational volleying skills to efface a break point and eventually get into a tiebreaker.  Shortly after, a backhand volley error by Erlich permitted the Spaniards to build a 4-1 lead.  Yet, this resilient Israeli pair saved five set points and equalized the match when Robredo’s forehand volley sailed long.

In the third set, Spain converted triple break point, then broke Israel a second time for 3-0 with some spectacular forehands by Robredo. Although Erlich and Ram closed the gap slightly by breaking, the insurance break was just the cushion the Spaniard required to claim the set. Only weeks removed from right elbow surgery, Erlich couldn’t contend with the blows from the Spanish side.  Serving at 1 all in the fourth, a low backhand return by Lopez forced Erlich to volley up resulting in break point. Furthermore, at this critical stage, pain in the elbow caused Erlich to request an injury time out. Soon, back at service line, Erlich surrendered his serve.  After consolidating, the Spaniards broke again to extend their lead to 4-1. A few games later, at love, Lopez punched his nation’s passage into the finals.

Today, as ordained by the rules, the remaining rubbers took place. In the initial one, Ferrer defeated Ram 6-3,6-1.  Israel avoided a shutout as Levy carried the second match 7-5, 6-2 over Lopez. Despite this outcome, the Israelis will look back on 2009 with fondness and great pride. Prior to being derailed by Spain, Israel registered victories over powerhouses Sweden and Russia.

Spain will battle Czech Republic, the latter makes it’s first appearance in the finals since 1980.  At that time, the territory was in one piece and called Czechoslovakia.  The Czechs also secured their entry into the final round on Saturday after winning all three rubbers. On Friday, Radek Stepanek tranquilized a hostile Croatian crowd, stared down 78 aces and took one minute shy of 6 hours before edging out Ivo Karlovic 6-7,7-6,7-6,6-7,16-14. On the heel of one of the longest matches in Davis Cup history, Tomas Berdych, not wanting to be outdone by his countryman, took down Marin Cilic 6-3,6-3,3-6,4-6,6-3 after 3hours and  48 minutes. Still with plenty of reserve, Berdych and Stepanek teamed up on Saturday in what must have seemed like a practice session to beat Lovro Zvoko and Cilic 6-1,6-3,6-4.  So today’s action featured two dead rubbers. Czech Jan Hajek defeated Roko Karnusic 7-6,6-4.  The home audience did not leave empty handed as Zvoko prevailed over Lukas Dlouhy 6-3, 6-4.

The finals will be decided in December with Spain hosting the Czechs Republic.  Although both teams performed well on clay this weekend, the Spaniards with the best clay players around, even with Nadal sidelined, will be hard to be.  Therefore, it will take a formidable performance by the Czechs to prevent Spain from capturing it’s fourth cup this decade.

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