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Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Murray Still In the Hunt at Australian Open

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Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Murray Still In the Hunt at Australian Open




Seven days of competition have passed at the Australian Open.  While Rafael Nadal has breezed through his matches to get to the round of 16, defending champion Roger Federer had a hiccup in the second round.  As usual, there were a few unexpected departures in the first week.  Here’s a summary of what has taken place this initial week.

It’s been smooth sailing for Nadal in getting through to the round of 16.  The world number one’s excellent form will come in handy as he faces 2010 semifinalist Marin Cilic.  After two easy matches, Cilic edged out John Isner 9-7 in the fifth to earn a crack at Nadal.

After a thrilling first round five setter against Lleyton Hewitt, David Nalbandian called it quit in the second round, four games away from being handed a straight set loss.  Mikhail Youzhny also departed earlier than expected.  The tenth seed was sent packing in the third round by Milos Raonic.  The 20 year old Canadian qualifier with the humongous serve also ousted Michael Llodra, the 22nd seed in the second round.  Next up for Raonic will be David Ferrer who is a relentless competitor.  Ferrer’s experience may prove too much for the youngster.  Thus, a Ferrer-Nadal quarterfinal showdown is the likely scenario.

Without much fuss, both Robyn Soderling and Andy Murray have been taking care of business.  Soderling’s fourth round match will be against Alexandr Dolgopolov.  The Ukrainian upset 13th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the third round.  Following an impressive second round match versus Juan Martin Del Potro, Marcos Baghdatis was forced to retire down two sets to one with a hand injury in his third round match against Jurgen Melzer.  As such, Murray will battle Melzer for a quarterfinal berth.

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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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Gasquet Capsizes Verdasco to Net Nice Title

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Gasquet Capsizes Verdasco to Net Nice Title


In front of a partisan crowd at the Open de Nice Cote D’Azur, Richard Gasquet upset world number 9 Fernando Verdasco 6-3,5-7,7-6 to win his first ATP title since Mumbai in 2007 and the sixth of his career.

Meeting for the 10th time, the last being Barcelona, Verdasco was going for his sixth consecutive victory over Gasquet.  A titlist in Barcelona and a finalist in Monte-Carlo, Verdasco was unquestionably the favorite.  Still, in carrying the challenger tournament in Bordeaux last week, Gasquet must have felt hopeful.

After a prior love service game, at 2-3, Verdasco gifted Gasquet a double fault giving him break point.  When the Spaniard misfired on a backhand down the line, Gasquet secured the break for 4-2.  Then, with a love game, Gasquet consolidated for 5-2.  After being unable to capitalize on four break points, Gasquet closed out the set by holding serve.

Subsequent to Verdasco arriving at 40-0 with three successive winners, Gasquet connected on a couple of winners for deuce.  Yet, on his fifth game point, Verdasco provoked an error from Gasquet to inch ahead 2-1.   Next, after erasing two game points by Gasquet, Verdasco forced his rival to dump a backhand volley into the net for his first break point.  By firing a forehand up the line winner, Verdasco broke for 3-1.  However, with a backhand mistake off a long rally and a double fault, Verdasco handed Gasquet double break point.  When Verdasco’s backhand sailed long, Gasquet was back in the set.  Promptly, with a love game, Gasquet squared the set at 3 all.  Later, Gasquet struck a backhand winner behind Verdasco for double break point. After a net court salvaged the first break point,  Verdasco flubbed a forehand off another net court to give Gasquet the break and a 5-4 advantage.  But serving for the match, Gasquet made three unforced errors in a row and was broken at love.  Following an easy hold for 6-5, Verdasco hit four sequential winners to take the set.

Verdasco guarded serve at love to start the third set.  When Gasquet double faulted, his counterpart had double break point.  As the Frenchman’s backhand crosscourt flew long, Verdasco took a 2-0 lead.  On cruise control, Verdasco ended a love game with an ace to extend the difference to 3-0.  At this point, Gasquet requested a time out to have a left knee/hamstring injury addressed.  When Gasquet returned, with three forehand winners and an ace, he stopped a run of six straight games by Verdasco.  But, with another easy game, Verdasco maintained serve for 4-1.  Conversely, Gasquet wiped out two break points, before holding serve with a forehand winner for 2-4.  Next, Gasquet induced four blunders from Verdasco to break at love. Unfortunately, despite a game point, Gasquet went on to surrender his serve.  Serving for the championship, Verdasco committed four back to back forehand mistakes to allow Gasquet back in the match.  Soon, with a massive second serve at 40-30, Gasquet tied the set at 5 all.  After a crosscourt forehand winner put Verdasco ahead 6-5, despite struggling, Gasquet maintained serve thereby sending the decisive set into a tiebreaker.

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